Freshman Looking For Playing Time and Respect

Football newcomer Kody Bliss is expected to make a run at the punting job vacated by 2002 senior Damon Duval.

Auburn, Ala.--Kody Bliss has tasted the appetizer and is ready for the main course.

The talented punter from Brentwood, Tenn., Academy has been on campus working out, taking a class and preparing himself for his freshman season as an Auburn football player. The 5-11, 175-pounder doesn't stand out physically in the 2003 AU signee class until he shows his powerful punting leg. He averaged 46.9yards per punt as a senior and 52 as a junior. Those are the kind of numbers that could give him a serious shot at early collegiate playing time.

Kody Bliss

Perhaps no true freshman has a better chance to be a key player in the opening game than Bliss. However, for that to happen he has to win the starting job over redshirt freshman Michael Gibson.

"I have been working hard this summer," Bliss tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I have been down here about a month, going to summer school and doing the conditioning workouts. I have been working really hard and kicking with the other guys. It has been a lot of hard work trying to get ready.

"If I am not in the best shape of my life, I am pretty close," Bliss notes. "Running-wise, I am sure I am in the best shape I have ever been in."

He has also tasted the collegiate academic life this summer. "I took a business ethics class," he says. "The class was a little different than anything I took in high school. It was mainly sophomores, juniors and seniors in there. I was able to pull out a B somehow."

A punter with his type of leg didn't come to Auburn to wait for his turn. He has a goal of being the starter on opening day vs. Southern Cal and might have the ability to do just that. He has looked good in summer workouts with the other kickers.

"My goal is to reach my potential and I try to set my goals way up there," Bliss says. "My first goal is to start, which is going to be a little harder than I anticipated when they were recruiting me because Gibson has gotten a lot better. Right now it is open. It is going to be a battle."

Bliss is tweaking his technique in order to have an edge in the competition for the punting job. "You have to get the ball off a little quicker because everybody coming after you is faster in college," he says. "Other than that the only real change is that I am moving my drop down a couple of inches because the winds are heavier in the stadium than they were in high school. There is nothing too major I am changing. I am just trying to be real consistent.

"I am getting pretty good height and good distance in practice. My leg strength is still there from past years. Consistency is the main thing they are looking for."

Tiger Ticket Extra: In addition to long punts, Bliss is known for high boomers. During his junior season, McCallie of Chattanooga dropped three towering Bliss punts in a regular season game. Before the rematch in the state playoffs, McCallie's coach tried a different approach to get his team prepared for Bliss. "I read an article before we played them the second time that their coach was a quarterback in college and he went to the top of their stadium and just tossed balls off as high as he could to all of their punt returners, but I believe they still dropped two more when we played them."...Bliss says the Auburn kickers are required to work just as hard as the position players in conditioning drills. "People will tell you the workouts are going to be hard, but it is kind of indescribable how it just hits you that first day," Bliss says. "You hear the coaches out there yelling at you and it reminds you that you have to earn your respect here. Nothing is given to you. It is not like high school. You are done with that."

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