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Monday with Chizik

AUBURN – The progression of quarterback Cam Newton through 11 games has been “a dream for a coach,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Monday at his weekly press conference.

Newton has led the No. 2 Tigers (11-0, 7-0) to the cusp of a championship season going into Friday’s Iron Bowl against Alabama (8-2, 5-2) at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“I’m really proud of him,” Chizik said. “Watching his progression from Game 1 until Game 11, that’s a dream for a coach to watch a kid continue to improve and become not just a great player within your football team and within the offense, but take on the leadership role.

“The level that everybody feels they have to compete at, he’s brought that up on our team because he’s so competitive.”

Chizik again would not address the controversy that has swirled around Newton for almost three weeks, since an ESPN.com report on his father’s alleged effort to get money from Mississippi State when Newton was being recruited out Blinn (Texas) College.

“I’m not talking about Cameron Newton unless it has something to do with the first 11 games and his performance in those games,” Chizik said.

I’m really proud of him. Watching his progression from Game 1 until Game 11, that’s a dream for a coach to watch a kid continue to improve and become not just a great player within your football team and within the offense, but take on the leadership role.

The level that everybody feels they have to compete at, he’s brought that up on our team because he’s so competitive.

More from Chizik:

On Alabama’s offense

“They are the No. 3 scoring offense in this league, and in this league there are a lot of people scoring a lot of points. The quarterback (Greg McElroy) is around 70 percent, which is off the chart. He has some great receivers. They are very willing to throw the ball down the field. They have two great running backs (Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson). The quarterback is really doing a great job throwing the football.”

On potential for game to be a track meet

“They certainly have the potential to make it that. We are going to have to play really well on defense. We’ve been preparing really, really well. I think we have a great plan, but we are going to be playing against some great players and a great scheme.”

On Alabama’s defense

“They are giving up 13 points a game. In this league, that is unbelievable. They are playing great defense again this year. Obviously, that is going to be a very formidable challenge for our offense.”

On difficulty of SEC West

“We feel like this is one of the best if not the best league in the country. This is one of the years where it’s brutal to survive in the West. You have great coaching. You have great players. It’s just really tough. It’s always been tough. This year might be the best it’s been in sometime.”

On LT Lee Ziemba approaching record-breaking 50th consecutive start

“Unbelievable. Durable is the first word that comes to mind for a guy like that. It’s an amazing feat he’s been able to do that. Lee has really improved as a football player. From last year, comparatively speaking, to this year, I think he has come miles and miles.”

On using multiple weapons on offense

“Offensively, I think we’ve done a really nice job of trying to spread the wealth, so to speak. We like to get the ball to different people in different ways. We feel like we have some guys we can utilize at different positions. Our staff has really created, on a weekly basis, different ways to do that.”

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