SEC Media Days is still going strong on its third and final day at the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham, but Auburn’s allotted time at the annual frenzy has come and gone. Gene Chizik, Philip Lutzenkirchen, Emory Blake and Corey Lemonier represented the team in front of droves of media members on Wednesday.
I wasn’t among them. Unlike last year (when we couldn’t make it), our (admittedly last-minute) request for media credentials was denied. (Please direct your angry letters of protest to someone important.) But thankfully, several fine reporters from the Auburn beat were there.
The update is that there is no update. At least on the current status / situation of freshman Zeke Pike. Pike is still back at home in Kentucky, and defensive back Jonathan Rose is back home in Leeds. Chizik simply said that Rose was dealing with some “personal issues,” but he had plenty of (somewhat harsh) things to say when asked about Pike.
“In Zeke’s case, I’ve said this so many times before, we have a certain standard and a certain expectation of our guys,” Chizik said. “And if they’re not living up to that, they’re not going to be here. So that’s why I sent him home. If he comes back here, it’s because he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. And he’s got a lot to do.
“So right now, we’re going to make that decision as we go down the road, but as we sit here today he is at home and he will continue to be there until I feel like — if I feel like — it’s the right thing to do, to bring him back.”
Of course, odds are that Pike will be back around at the start of the fall semester, and that he’ll be able to manage doing what Chizik has asked him to do (i.e., sit around and not do anything stupid). But sports-related discipline issues like this are always interesting. Should Chizik really be hanging Pike’s academic future over his head? If you’re in Pike’s shoes, should you be filling out applications and looking at other schools, or are you just out of luck for the fall semester if Chizik’s decision goes against you?
Obviously there’s tons more to it and there’s a lot more Chizik has told Pike than what he disclosed to the media, but I’ve been public about my take on the Pike situation before, and in my opinion Chizik’s walking a tight line when he’s using the language that he’s using.
Did he seriously instruct Zeke Pike to drop his summer classes, set his academic plan off track, and leave school because of some football issue? Because there’s some imaginary “black eye” given to the program when people realize that the team is made up of college students that get in trouble sometimes?
Obviously it’s a tough situation, but everything about the handling of Pike’s situation from the beginning has left a bad taste in my mouth, and Chizik’s answer yesterday didn’t help.
On the flip side of the quarterback battle, Kiehl Frazier has been doing pretty good, according to some of his teammates. Frazier received a notable amount of praise from running back Tre Mason last week, and yesterday more of his teammates echoed confidence in the sophomore.
“Kiehl has gotten a lot better with where he was last fall to where he is now,” Lutzenkirchen told reporters. “Kiehl has taken that leadership role. I think last year, being a true freshman trying to help lead an offense, he wasn’t that comfortable with it. Now, he’s assumed that it is an opportunity for him to take reigns of this offense.
“He’s thrown the ball a lot better, a lot more arm strength, a lot more accuracy. You can tell he’s been in the playbook a lot more.”
Another one of the offense’s biggest weapons, receiver Emory Blake, had more to say:
“If I didn’t know Kiehl, I wouldn’t think he was the same guy, because he’s changed that much,” said Blake. “He’s always had a big arm. Even last year, he was throwing darts, but his progressions and his reads have been so much better that it’s given us new confidence.”
I think it’s pretty safe to say that while Chizik maintains that the quarterback situation is still “up in the air,” there’s going to be a well-established frontrunner for the job going in to fall camp.
Especially when Frazier’s earning comparisons like this.
There were plenty of other news and notes to come out of Media Days about more than just the quarterbacks, though.
Corey Lemonier added 20 lbs. this offseason, bringing his weight up to 250. Gene Chizik said that a lot of that has to do with bringing balance to his game:
“What we’ve done in the spring is, we’ve tried to work with Corey in great depth of understanding the importance of the run game. Not that he doesn’t understand it, but really imparting that to him, this is a game where you have to do both. I think he’s still growing in that regard. He has to balance up his game the whole way around.”
Lemonier echoed his coach in regards to an emphasis on the run game, and he also touched on the amount of depth Auburn has at defensive end. Somewhere, Nosa Eguae and Dee Ford nod their heads.
You can hear Lemonier talk about it all himself in this al.com video, and while we’re at it, and while we’re at it, Ivan Maisel of ESPN caught up with Gene Chizik for another interview that’s worth your time.
Elsewhere at Media Days, Mississippi State was also on center stage Wednesday, and they appear to have the Auburn game circled on their calendars this season. Ryan Wood of the Opelika-Auburn News gathered a set of quotes from the Bulldog camp that you’ll want to check out.
Meanwhile, back at home Auburn added its 17th commitment for the 2013 signing class in Cordova, Tenn., running back Jordan Wilkins. Wilkins, who had offers from Michigan, Arkansas, and Tennessee, chose Auburn over Vanderbilt on Wednesday morning.
Photo via the Associated Press, photographer Butch Dill.
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