Like most AU fans I was initially disappointed with the Chizik hire. Still reeling after a dismal season and the resignation of a much loved coach. I unfairly judged coach Chizik based on nothing but his 5-19 Iowa State record.
I suppose many of us were just hoping that AU would bring someone in that could compete in recruiting, and restore confidence to a program that seemed to forget it was still one of the top programs in the country.
Chizik didn't receive the same fan fare greeting giving to cross state rival Nick Saban. In fact some fans showed up at the airport to show there opposition to the hire.
Coach Chizik exhibited great character and didn't let the opposition phase him. He won my respect almost immediately.
With his back against the wall and very little time before National signing day,Chizik hit the ground running. Lets look closer at Coach Chizik's recipe for success.
First coach Chizik has assembled arguably one of the top assistant coaching staffs in the country. No one can accuse Chizik of not knowing defense so what does he do to improve his team? Puts together an absolute killer offensive coaching staff.
Gus Malzahn is certainly one of the top offensive minds. He's been successful at every stop. Leading Tulsa to the number two ranked offensive team in the country in 2008.
Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper were instrumental in bringing Oklahoma State to a level of offensive respectability rarely seen by OSU fans. Both coaches produced first team all Americans in wide receiver Dez Bryant (Taylor) and running back Kendall Hunter (Luper).
So how do you top that? In comes Tracy Rocker. AU fans remember this beloved player. He is now one of the top defensive line coaches in college football.
Chizik's hire of defensive coordinator Ted Roof brings a great defensive mind to Auburn and will certainly produce one of the best coached linebacker corps in all of the SEC. This guy was not only a great player (All ACC), but he coached the University of Minnesota's inept defense to one of the top ranked big 10 defenses in only one year.
So if the first ingredient for success is coaching, AU has that covered.The second ingredient is Iowa State.
How does Iowa State play into this? Experience. Yea Yea Yea, 5-19 how can that bring experience. First off, no offense to our Iowa state fans intended, but no one has had much success in Ames Iowa.
Coach Chizik inherited a cellar big 12 team that had not broken the top 60 in recruiting in years. He not only had a difficult time attracting top level recruits, but also top level assistant coaches. His two year stay will prove invaluable as far as learning the ropes of being a head coach.
Mom used to say the proof is in the pudding. Obviously he learned something, quickly hiring an experienced staff and salvaging a once lost recruiting class and turning it into a top 20 class.
The third and final ingredient to success are the players. Is there enough talent to compete now? Some coaches can get the most out of players, Tubberville was exceptional at that. He could take a two or three star defensive lineman and turn out an all pro offensive lineman.
That is yet to be seen of Coach Chizik, however, he does have some good talent in place.
He returns eight starters from a top 20 ranked defense that kept us in 10 of 12 games last year. He has also managed to bring in several very good high school and Jr. college transfers that should contribute immediately. I predict we will once again have a top 10 defense.
The offense is in need of some play makers. Coach Malzahn has a few but needs to figure some way of getting the ball to Mario Fannin. Fannin could be the difference and is poised for a break out season.
All good recipes have a few of these , so I'll just give a couple of secret ingredients. Newcomers Eltoro Freeman will remind AU fans of Tray Blackmon, Deangelo Benton has the potential to become another Dez Bryant and Onterio McCalebb has blazing speed and should replace Brad Lester nicely.
One missing ingredient that must be found is a sound quarterback. Malzahn is working hard to find the right guy. The fact that a starting QB was not named after spring practices shows they are still looking.
True freshman Tyrik Rollison will have a legitimate chance to win the job. Sr. Chris Todd could get the nod if he can fully recover from shoulder surgery.
Does Chizik have what it takes to win an SEC title this year? likely not,but he has the right ingredients for success and could very easily surprise many critics.