Gene Chizik has been far removed from a football field during his first two months as Auburn’s head coach, his time spent recruiting players and hiring a staff.
With 35 days until the start of spring practice, his next task is making sure everybody is in sync.
“There’s just so much going on, a lot of moving parts right now,” Chizik said during a Monday meeting with reporters. “We’ve got a lot of stuff on our plate.”
A day after filling out his on-field staff by hiring Phillip Lolley and Tommy Thigpen to split duties in the secondary (their roles still are not defined), Chizik added to his administrative staff Monday, confirming the addition of Scott Fountain and Ben Thomas for undefined roles.
Fountain, 42, worked with Chizik the past two seasons at Iowa State, where he was a tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. An East Brewton, Ala., native, Fountain was a four-year letterman at Samford for Terry Bowden. He has coached collegiately for 15 years after spending six at high school in Alabama.
Thomas, 47, capped a standout Auburn career in 1985 before a five-year run in the NFL. He most recently served in an events management capacity at Auburn.
His staff in place, Chizik has turned his attention to installing offensive and defensive schemes while evaluating talent.
“I’m trying to gather information, getting a feel for what our team can and can’t do physically and athletically and things of that nature,” Chizik said. “And that really gives us an idea and a direction of where we go from here as far as recruiting. You have to have a good sense of both, of what you’re bringing in and what you’ve got.”
While the 2009 recruiting class is in the books, the Tigers’ coaches aren’t neglecting the 2010 crop.
“We’ll be catching up probably for a little bit more time,” said Chizik, who wants to solidify relationships with high school coaches. “But we’ll be caught up shortly.”
Auburn’s Junior Day is scheduled for March 7. That’s when the program will host recruits who are juniors in high school.
“We have to make sure we roll out the orange carpet,” running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Curtis Luper said.
The Tigers tentatively have mapped out how their coaches will attack the recruiting trail.
Auburn will devote seven coaches to recruiting Alabama, a state that has seen its top talent migrate to the Crimson Tide since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa two years ago.
Luper and Chizik plan to split the state (and part of western Georgia) into zones: two in the south, two in the north, one in Montgomery, one in Birmingham and one that encompasses Lee County, Columbus and LaGrange.
“This state has great football,” Chizik said. “We don’t want to miss one (recruit). We want to be in the game with every one of them that we need to be in the game with.
“And we don’t want guys to be spread too thin. We don’t want to send guys all the way out over here when we’ve got one in our own backyard. … We got to make sure we capture what we need to capture in this state.”
“I’m a military man,” Luper said. “One of the basic elements of the military is that you protect your border. So we’ve got to protect our border. We’re going to start right here in this state.”
Luper, who earned the recruiting coordinator title as part of his move from Oklahoma State, is not setting modest goals.
“We need the No. 1 recruiting class in the country,” he said, acknowledging a rating system that most coaches dismiss. “If they’re keeping the score, you want to win, right?”