State of the Program: Is Auburn’s Future Looking Bright or Dim?


Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden�US PRESSWIRE

Gene Chizik was hired almost four years ago and I would like to ask one question:  Are we better off now than we were pre-Chizik?  It’s almost a ridiculous question seeing as we hired Chizik after a dismal 5-7 record in 2008 and losing recruit after recruit to the west side of the state for the last two years of the Tuberville regime.  What makes it even more laughable is the fact that I’m asking this question after we won a national championship under Gene Chizik, the program’s first in 53 years.  However, with all the off-the-field problems and the disastrous start to the 2012 season, does Gene Chizik have the program going in the right direction?

Gene Chizik got off to a great start at Auburn as he made some great coaching hires and started the 2009 season 5-0.  We finished the season 8-5 and won the Outback Bowl over Northwestern.  Most experts thought Auburn would struggle to make a bowl game that year but Chizik proved them all wrong and got Auburn to a respectable New Year’s Day bowl game.

Things continued on the upswing after the 2009 season as we signed the nation’s 4th ranked recruiting class in February 2010, even beating rival Alabama in the recruiting rankings.  Expectations were getting higher as the 2010 season approached, with Auburn having a senior heavy team with a great offensive line, thanks in part to Tuberville’s last great recruiting effort.

We started the season a little shaky, winning some close games.  We outlasted perennial SEC powers LSU and Arkansas and Auburn quickly moved up the polls.  Everyone was interested in the newest college football star, Cam Newton, who was quickly becoming the favorite in the Heisman race.  As fast as Auburn fans were getting excited about this special season in 2010, it all came falling down as fast once we heard about the Cam Newton scandal.  After being talked about at nausea and a quick suspension, we were all delighted to hear Cam Newton was cleared by the NCAA and could finish the season out.

Auburn went on to win the national championship and Auburn fans were at an all-time high, not believing something like this could happen to their program so quickly after hiring a new coach.  Most fans wondered if Auburn could ever win the big prize period.  The fans didn’t have much time to celebrate the national championship before all the accusations and suspensions started piling up.  The infamous “HBO four” made a television appearance in early 2011.  These four former Auburn players told the audience they were paid to play at Auburn and continually received money and gifts while at Auburn.  All four players were dismissed from the team or left the program on bad terms.  As fans, we stood by our program and said these players were lying or they were just disgruntled former players.  Not long after this, four Auburn players were arrested for armed robbery, giving the program yet another black eye in what was quickly becoming a bad off-season.

After a disappointing but expected 2011 season where Auburn went 8-5, star tailback Michael Dyer was dismissed from the team prior to the Chick-fil-a Bowl.  Dyer was a bad apple who was given chance after chance but never seemed to want to obey orders.  Zeke Pike, once a prized recruit was sent home after being arrested for public intoxication early in the summer.  Pike never returned to the Plains.  Starting center Reese Dismukes was arrested for the same thing a week before the 2012 season started and brought negative attention to Auburn yet again.

The off-the-field issues surrounding Auburn during the short Chizik era is numerous and troubling.  Under Chizik’s watch, more players have been suspended or arrested than in all the years Tommy Tuberville was at the helm.  This has brought bad publicity to the program and still does to this day.

The on-the-field product seems to be getting worse in year four of the Gene Chizik era.  In Chizik’s first year, Auburn was competitive in all but two games.  We lost two road games to LSU and Arkansas by 21 points.  In 2011 alone, we had losses of 24, 35, 38 and 28 points.  All those losses came against highly ranked opponents but what bothers me the most is the fact the team seemed to give up in most of those games.   The 2012 team is not looking much better and is in fact looking much worse.  After being competitive in the opener, Auburn looked as bad as I have ever seen last Saturday in an 18 point loss to Mississippi State, where the defense was obviously frustrated at the offense’s lack of scoring.  The defense and the entire team simply gave up and it was very obvious.

Auburn has been a young team for two years now but the lack of effort and passion really alarms me.  The effort and passion players give comes down to leadership and I really question Chizik’s ability to motivate these players.  Watching other SEC teams play defense, you can tell they give maximum effort and they have a want to make a tackle or a big hit.  Auburn’s defense lacks this detail and it’s been getting worse every year under Chizik.  Auburn’s defense is in position a lot of times, but they always seem to miss tackles and this has gotten worse every year Chizik has been on the Plains.

This proves to be a long year but much will be determined in the following weeks.  If this team can rebound and make a bowl game this year, 2013 could be a great year for the Tigers.  With most of the team returning, we could be a highly ranked team starting the season.  Of course, this all depends on how this year’s team finishes the season.  I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best, but my optimism is running thin.

I’m not saying we should fire Chizik or make any sudden moves, but the more I see Chizik’s teams play the last two years, the more I’m convinced it will not get any better.  I am still “all in” with this program, I just hope the players and coaches are too.