ALBANY -- Before Gene Chizik was hired as Auburn's football coach in December 2008, he once was a successful defensive coordinator for the Tigers and the University of Texas.
Holding the same position during undefeated seasons at Auburn in 2004 and for the national champion Longhorns in 2005, Chizik seems to be qualified to notice defensive talent. That's what made him notice former Westover High School star Aairon Savage in summer 2004.
"I was one of the ones who recruited him," Chizik recalled Thursday night during his stop in Albany. "We had him in camp and he was a really good player and that's what made us start recruiting him. He's a great young man as well as a great football player. We're just glad to have him back on the roster and ready to go again."
Savage missed the 2008-09 seasons due to injury and had to apply for a medical hardship waiver, granting him a sixth year of eligibility this fall and was successful. Now that Savage is set to play, his versatility in the secondary leaves Chizik with a dilemma -- where to play him when spring practice begins March 24.
"I feel (Savage) gives us some flexibility in terms of where to play him," said Chizik, whose team's spring game is April 17. "We're just going to kind of play it by ear and we'll know more as it gets closer to spring practice starting."
Chizik said Savage looks ready to play with pads, but added that isn't the only thing that could make Savage a key player this fall.
"He's really excited again about playing football and that's really neat to see," Chizik said. "I think he brings a lot to the table. He obviously brings a level of experience. He's played a lot of football and I think he brings a level of maturity. And he's obviously been in college for 6 years, but he even has the level of maturity, in my opinion, of (a guy) even beyond his years."
As if being the coach at Auburn doesn't bring enough pressure in the state of Alabama, Chizik was asked if there was any more these days considering the rival Alabama Crimson Tide are reigning national champions.
"There's always pressure on every college coach," Chizik responded.