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Now, build

As a current blogger and former journalist, there are times I can’t help but wish Gene Chizik could liven up his press conferences just a bit, give the media classes just a few more juicy quotes to spice up our blog posts and wire stories.

Then there are times like yesterday, when what I wish for instead is a bookie that would take odds on what Chizik would say when asked a given question. And that way, when he was asked about Marcus Lattimore and said

“We don’t talk about the ones we didn’t get.”

I’d have a new ski condo. That was still only the second-most predictable quote of the Chizik press conference, though, the first being this one:

“We knew we really had to use this class to build a foundation of what we’re trying to do at Auburn. This building block, exactly a year later, was exactly what we envisioned.”

If we’d been playing “Gene Chizik Siging Day press conference bingo,” the word “foundation” would have been the word in the center square so you knew everyone would get it for free. It’s an unavoidable concept when talking about this Auburn class. I used it myself the other day. If Chizik’s Auburn becomes the program we want them to be, his first surprising cobbled-together class will be a nice  story … but it’s this second one and that luminous Signing Day we all enjoyed yesterday that’s going to be the class and the date we point to as the place that rise began. Chizik and Co. had laid down some building blocks. But the foundation didn’t appear complete until yesterday.

But here’s the problem with the metaphor: it’s all couched in the future. If Auburn becomes the program we want them to be. The foundation appears complete. You know how many other major signing classes have been heralded by their coaches as a “foundation”? Let’s put the number at “oodles,” and leave it at that.

And while some of those foundations have proven sturdy, some of them have been shown to have been made out of papier-mache and sandbox sand. Think Charlie Weis’s drastically improved classes at Notre Dame. Ed Orgeron’s at Ole Miss. Bill Callahan’s at Nebraska. Ron Zook’s at Illinois, which have blown away like so much dust in the wind and left the Illini with this.

Now: Auburn’s class of 2010 is miles, miles better than a lot of those classes. (Look through Rivals’ record of team rankings–which goes back to 2002–and you’ll see that no team with as, shall we say, “limited” a national profile as Auburn has cracked the top 5. Nebraska is the only thing close.) And we would like to think that coaches like Chizik and Co. will know what to do with their new toys in way guys like Orgeron and Callahan never would.

But right now we can only think. We don’t know, not yet. It’s beyond cliched to say This is only the beginning–it’s a surprise Chizik didn’t borrow that particular phrase as well–but, you know, this is only the beginning. The story has its opening lines, but Auburn still has to write the rest of it. Maybe it will be a story of triumph. Maybe it will be another cautionary tale to file alongside the Zooks of the world, another windswept cow skeleton along the dusty trail to victory.

We know that the former is more likely than the latter, of course. We know that Auburn’s new foundation looks sturdy enough. Gene Chizik and his staff have acquired the bricks, the mortar, the blueprints. Yesterday, they made a promise, both to the young men who joined their football team and the fans that support them. Now they just have to keep it.

Build on yesterday, Auburn. Build.

Photo by Van Emst, who ought to win some kind of award for that one photo. You know the one.

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