HOOVER, Ala. - By winning eight games, including a New Year's Day Bowl, Auburn exceeded expectations in Gene Chizik's first season as head football coach.
Yet the Tigers took their fans on a very wild ride.
"It seemed like last season had so many highs and lows, and it was extremely interesting," senior tackle Lee Ziemba said Friday as SEC media days concluded. "Now that we have a year under our belts and have some experience, our goal is to go from good to great. We certainly have an opportunity to do that."
Auburn bolted out of the gate a year ago with five consecutive wins behind an explosive offense under new coordinator Gus Malzahn, but the Tigers then lost three straight, including listless performances against Kentucky and LSU. One of Auburn's best showings occurred against rival Alabama, when the Tigers fell in the final two minutes against the eventual national champion, and the Outback Bowl against Northwestern may have been the wackiest postseason outing in program history.
What transpired last season has helped Chizik in shifting his focus from building in year one to displaying more consistency in year two.
"Consistency is going to be the name of the game with us in terms of us being better and really laying the second brick in the foundation of what we're trying to do," Chizik said. "Wins and losses are not really something that we can pin a number to and say this is going to be a successful second year. We want to be a more consistent team and on a consistent basis play better than we did last year, and then we'll let the numbers work themselves out."
His first season was sandwiched by a respectable first recruiting class and an outstanding second one. And every assistant coach in 2009 has returned, making Auburn the only school in the league to keep its staff intact.
That lack of change has been rare for the Tigers.
"It's extremely beneficial," Ziemba said. "Rather than spending time worrying about terminology or blocking schemes, we have a chance to perfect what we've already learned. I'm excited about that, because it's the first time in my college career that I've played in the same offense for two straight years."