Emphasis On Kicking Game For Tigers

Auburn kicker Wes Byrum, coach Gene Chizik and defensive tackle Nick Fairley talk about getting ready to face Oregon.

Scottsdale, Ariz.--Working out in shells as things begin to wind down towards kickoff of the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, the 13-0 Auburn Tigers practiced for two hours with much of the emphasis on polishing up the game plan for Oregon and working on special team. So many times bowl games are decided by mistakes in special teams and senior kicker Wes Byrum said the Tigers have gone out of their way to go the extra mile in that department.

"I think we're doing real well," Byrum said. "We really kicked it up a notch about two weeks before we got out here, not that we weren't working hard all year. Special teams can be the difference in big games like this. We just wanted to make sure we were on point and doing our part and as prepared as possible for any situation that came up. We're working hard every day to fine tune everything to be as close to perfect as we can be."

With the tempo and excitement ramping up towards Monday's kickoff, Chizik said that he again saw good things out of his team overall as they begin to wrap up the preparation portion of bowl practice time.

"It was a good day again today," Chizik said. "It was very productive. Just like every day we're continuing to brush up and touch up on some things. Overall it was a good day…everybody is healthy."

Coach Tracy Rocker with Camelback Mountain in the background

With so much time between the SEC Championship Game and the BCS title game, the questions have abounded about Auburn's ability to deal with a long layoff. This year the Tigers and Ducks have 37 days off between games but just one year ago Auburn dealt with a 35-day break before a win over Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. Chizik said he's pleased with how his team is responding to the extended practice time.

"I am very proud of the way our team has focused day by day," Chizik said. "They are getting anxious and want to get to the game but we've got to be patient. We've got to know that Jan. 10 is the time we need to be ready to play. They understand that and I think they've handled it really well."

One of the things that is noticeable in practice is the amount of emphasis Auburn is giving to conditioning on the defensive side of the ball. Facing an Oregon offense that snaps the football every 13 seconds on average, the Tigers have done some extra things to get ready for Monday night's game in addition to just running plays at a high tempo.

"Especially as the D line, Coach Rocker has us jump rope and get off on practice," defensive tackle Nick Fairley said. "Feet get off, jump rope, just getting our wind up. We have been doing a lot of extra stuff."

Nick Fairley

That extra word has not only paid off in getting the Tigers more prepared to face Oregon's tempo in the BCS National Championship Game, it has also served to pick up the pace in practice. In turn Fairley said it has made Auburn perform at a higher level this week on the practice fields at Scottsdale Community College.

"It is getting closer and closer," Fairley said of the game. "When I was at practice yesterday, practice was very good, high tempo. It was a great practice for us, probably one of our best as far as preparation-wise."

Fairley and the Tigers will face the undefeated Oregon Ducks on Jan. 10 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. central time.

Tiger Ticket Extra:

1985 Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson was at Thursday's practice and spent some time talking with the players while watching the team go through the paces. ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit was also in attendance and talked for quite a while with former Auburn assistant coach Joe Whitt while watching practice.

Michael Dyer and Bo Jackson talk following Thursday's practice.


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