AUBURN, Ala. — Gene Chizik left Jordan-Hare Stadium Friday night conflicted with emotions, disappointed by Auburn’s narrow 26-21 loss to No. 2 Alabama in the Iron Bowl’s final minutes yet encouraged by the step the program has made in the year since he became coach.
Ultimately, the latter was more impactful.
“I’m satisfied with us working toward building a foundation for what we know is going to be great here,” Chizik said during a Saturday teleconference. “I don’t think there’s any question in my mind that we’ve done that.
“Are there some games like yesterday where we wish we could have pulled out? There’s no question about it. But we have a chance for eight wins in our first year, but more importantly what we have set down is a foundation for a very, very bright future here. There’s no question in our mind about that. I think that was evident to everybody yesterday.”
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Auburn (7-5, 3-5 SEC) now must wait until after next week’s SEC championship game to find out where it will go for a bowl game.
Chizik’s plan is to let Auburn’s administrators deal with where the Tigers end up — the picture, even after Saturday’s games, will still be muddled by a scrum of 7-5 or 8-4 SEC teams — while he focuses elsewhere.
“I’m worried about recruiting,” he said. “We’re hitting the road starting ASAP. The bowl committees are going to do their thing, and administratively we’ve got great leadership and those guys worry about those things. And obviously we want to give our kids an opportunity to play in the best bowl they can. And they’ve earned that and deserve that, because it’s been a long year. But I leave that up to everybody else.”
Chizik and his staff met with recruits and their families after Friday’s game and Saturday, calling the response “overwhelming.”
“It’s been unbelievable just listening to them talk about everything from Tiger Walk to the gameday atmosphere to how they stayed after the game,” Chizik said. “And our fans realize how important they are to us, but I think they also realize how important they are to recruiting. And it’s evident by the way gameday is here, and obviously it’s because of our fan base.”
Chizik estimated that 98 percent of the team’s recruiting evaluations are done for the season and it instead will focus on closing out its 2010 class, a group that already has 21 commitments.
It’s a major departure from last season, when he and his newly assembled staff patched together a 2009 class of Tommy Tuberville’s former recruits and whoever they could convince to come to Auburn during a hectic January.
“It’s completely different,” Chizik said. “We’ve been recruiting most of these kids for a year. Time will simply tell you that it’s a completely different situation. We’re able to focus on finishing up the class as opposed to starting the class. … As soon as we finish up with who we’re targeting here we can move on to next year’s class. It’s a whole different ballgame right now.”
While the coaches handle recruiting, Auburn’s players will focus on academics with exams on the horizon. The break before the team begins preparation for its bowl game also provides ample time for players to rest from various injuries.
Once Auburn’s bowl destination is announced, the team will have 15 practices of preparation, a major advantage for a team looking to give its inexperienced players a head start looking forward to next spring.
“(It’s) in essence, really, a whole other spring practice,” Chizik said. “All the practice and all the reps just kind of accumulate over time and can do nothing but help your football team.”
Notes: Tight end Dakota Mosley verbally agreed to sign with Auburn in February, becoming the Tigers’ 22nd commit for 2010, according to AuburnSports.com.
Mosley, of Little Rock (Ark.) Christian High, is a teammate of running back Michael Dyer, one of the nation’s top running backs. Dyer committed to Auburn earlier this month.
Mosley, the Tigers’ first tight end commit for 2010, is a 6-foot-4, 252-pound recruit.
He had offers from Florida State, Louisiana Tech, Tennessee and Tulsa. Rivals.com ranks him as a three-star recruit. Scout.com lists him as a two-star.