AUBURN, Ala. — His weight down and strength not where he wanted it to be, Lee Ziemba went about adding some much-needed bulk in the offseason.
The Auburn left tackle hit the weights and ate a mountain of food, consuming 5,000 calories a day to go from a svelte 280 pounds to a solid 308.
“I feel like I’m a new person,” said Ziemba, whose winter docket also included knee surgery. “I feel like I’m a new offensive lineman, and I’m about to prove that.”
Ziemba struggled his entire sophomore campaign after hurting his knee in August. The injury prevented him from quick lateral movement, and, with his weight down in order to play in Tony Franklin’s fast offense, he lacked the strength he wanted to play against SEC defenses.
“I missed the power,” he said. “I got in the weight room and worked on my upper body. My upper body was very subpar. … I’m feeling a whole lot better.”
Ziemba’s new body should help in Gus Malzahn’s offense, which coaches have repeatedly claimed will feature a power running game.
As for putting down 5,000 calories a day, Ziemba eventually didn’t find it difficult to do.
“Not anymore,” he said. “It was at first. I made myself sick a few times.”
Auburn finally revealed how it will divvy up its coaching duties in the secondary: Phillip Lolley will coach cornerbacks and Tommy Thigpen will oversee safeties.
Lolley, who was Auburn’s Director of NFL Relations the previous five years, coached cornerbacks when head coach Gene Chizik was the Tigers’ defensive coordinator from 2002 -03.
“That’s my love is being able to do that,” Lolley said. “I love to be able to break the game down into specific techniques. It’s like several positions on the football team, that position is very skill-specific. You’ve got to break down every little part.”
Thigpen was a linebackers coach at North Carolina the last four years, but he worked in the secondary prior to that as a graduate assistant at UNC and at stops at Bowling Green and Illinois.
A three-time All-ACC linebacker for the Tar Heels from 1989-92, Thigpen had mixed feelings about leaving his alma mater for Auburn but was told by former UNC coach Mack Brown that he at least had to take a look at both Chizik, who coached for Brown at Texas, and Auburn.
“I want to be at a place where football is really, really important,” Thigpen said. “This place? It’s unbelievable. When you talk to coaches (all over) the country, they told me you’ve got to go. It’s one of the best jobs in all of America.”
Slow but steady
Chizik said the Tigers were sloppy during Thursday’s practice but was quick to acknowledge that comes with the territory when a team is trying to install new schemes on both sides of the ball.
Players and coaches alike are trying not to get too frustrated in the early going.
“I woke up (Wednesday) and I had that look on my face, that frown,” defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said. “My wife said, ‘Hey, remember it was the first day.’ You can’t build a house in a day. It takes work.” You know that.”