Vaughn Getting A Leg Up On The Competition

Freshman kicker John Vaughn discusses his role as Auburn's starting kicker.

Auburn, Ala.--True freshman John Vaughn came into Auburn's fall practice a distant second in the race to win the starting kicking job following a solid performance by junior Philip Yost in spring practice.

That didn't stop Vaughn from working hard all summer to come in and give it his best shot. The result is that the Brentwood, Tenn., native earned the starting job on field goals and extra points in Auburn's season opener against USC Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

John Vaughn

"I was really just excited," Vaughn said when he was told by Coach Eddie Gran around lunchtime on Tuesday. "I'm just a freshman so I can't really say it was relief. I was just excited that he told me that. It's not over. Just getting the job is not what I want to do. I want to contribute and help the team and do my best out there. I have to stay focused and keep getting the ball off.

"It's my dream," he added. "I have worked really hard. It's exciting and I'm ready for it. I plan on going out there and being focused and getting the job done to the best of my ability."

A record-setting kicker for Brentwood Academy for four seasons, Vaughn was almost automatic when he took the field for a kick. In his career the 6-1, 175 Vaughn made 39-of-44 field goals and 137-of-142 point after attempts. A more remarkable stat is that he never missed inside 39 yards in his career and made 39-of-41 kicks inside 50 yards.

Because of that accuracy, Vaughn is likely to be Auburn's kicker on short to medium-length field goals while Yost will handle the long field goal duties and kickoffs. Sharing the role is fine with Vaughn, who said his range isn't as good now as it will be when he leaves the Plains.

"Right now once I get outside of 45-yards I feel like I have to hit it good," Vaughn said. "In practice I've had a couple from 47 that I've dropped, but I didn't really hit well. When I get back there mentality-wise you try to kick every kick just like an extra point. At the same time if you can't stay focused on it you try to kick it too hard and over kick it. Once I get outside of about 45-yards that starts happening."

While many would assume that beating an established player would be a cause for strife among the kickers. Vaughn said it's not that way. Working with Yost since arriving on campus over the summer, the freshman said that nothing has changed in their relationship since they received word today that Vaughn had won the job.

"Philip is a great guy," Vaughn said. "He's still out and practice and encouraging me every kick and if I do something wrong he tells me what I did wrong. He's really been tremendous in support of me. Today he was real supportive and I was supportive of him on kicks."

Something that Vaughn had to deal with early was the speed at which the college game is played. In his very first practice Vaughn had two kicks blocked and never recovered that day, missing wildly several times. That continued the next day, but Vaughn said he vowed to block that out his mind and kick the ball like he knew he could. Since then it has been smooth sailing on his way to the top.

"I knew it was going to be fast, but nothing can prepare you for that until you get out there and experience it," Vaughn said. "The coaches put some of our best athletes on special teams and they are out there coming off the end, flying off the end. The guys can really jump."

Unlike Vaughn, the rest of Auburn's special teams units will be filled with veteran players looking to do their part in a Tiger victory. While that's not unusual, what is different is the numbers of different guys that will see action on different special teams u units in 2003. Gran said that is something the added depth has allowed this season, depth on both sides of the ball.

"It makes it to where you don't have the Karlos Dansby's and the D.T.s (Dontarrious Thomas) out there every snap," Gran said. "We've got some guys that are really close in talent, guys we feel like can get the job done. They'll be excited because that's their role. That makes it fun for them because they are going to get action and they are going to get a chance to play."

Among the names Tiger fans can expect to see on the field for special teams action in addition to their duties on offense or defense are Will Herring, Derrick Graves, Montae Pitts, Doug Langenfeld and Ben Grubbs among others on defense. The offensive players that will see action are Tre Smith and Carnell Williams, who will both be returning kicks, Brandon Jacobs, Brandon Johnson, Jake Slaughter and Jeris McIntyre.

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