Change In Style Leads To Startlng Role

<!--Default For Auburn is to ignore-->Auburn, Ala.--Credit a change in style with helping a redshirt freshman hold off a major challenge for the starting punter's job.

Coach Tommy Tuberville says that Michael Gibson is his pick to open the season as the punter, edging true freshman Kody Bliss of Brentwood, Tenn., for that job.

Gibson, who says he was very excited to get the news, is punting significantly better this preseason than he did a year ago and in spring training.

Michael Gibson works on his punting in Tuesday's practice. He avereaged 46.5 yards per punt as a senior at Mooreville, Miss., High School in the fall of 2001.

"I think it has really been a big adjustment being here for a year, being able to talk with the people and getting classes organized and all of that," Gibson tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I just know what I am coming into. That has made it a lot easier.

"The coaches have learned to adjust to my type of kicking," Gibson adds. "I have shortened it up to a step and half and that has made it a lots faster for me. It has really worked out for the best. Before I was doing two steps or two and a half steps. By doing this, I get it off a lot quicker and the ball is carrying just as good or better.

"We have been keeping track of get-off times," Gibson notes. "It has been around 2.0 seconds. We can be anywhere from 2.2 to 1.9. Coach Gran (running backs and special teams coach Eddie Gran) wants us to get it off under 2.2 seconds and we have both been doing a good job of that."

Gibson says he feels good about the guys on the coverage team that will be protecting him on punts. "I feel confident about that," he says. "You know that we have B.J. (Brandon Johnson) back there and we have other veterans on the line. Dontarrious Thomas is in there, too. It makes you feel good."

Gibson says he bought a bottle of "Pepto" for his stomach that he plans to drink before the USC game to keep his nerves in check. He says that he doesn't think being nervous will be a problem. "I competed in baseball since I was real small," the former All-State football and baseball player says. "My junior and senior year I competed in state championship. I was nervous then, but it ended up for the best. I guess we will see what happens."

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