"Music To My Ears"

A key Auburn football player is pumped up about playing on Saturday night.

Auburn, Ala.--If Joe Walkins can cause as much excitement as the redshirt freshman is currently showing himself, Auburn football fans should be happy on Saturday night.

The slot wide receiver and punt returner is preparing for his first ever football appearance before a national TV audience as his Tigers travel to Syracuse to play the Orangemen. Kickoff time is set for 6:50 p.m. on ESPN.

"I am very excited about playing on TV," Walkins says. "I have been pacing a little bit and watching a lot of film of Syracuse. I just want to go out there and help the team in anyway possible, but I am really excited about playing on national TV. I need to focus on my assignments."

Playing in prime time before a coast to coast audience isn't the only thing that has the freshman pumped. Head coach Tommy Tuberville has hinted that the Tigers are going to "open up the offense" for quarterback Jason Campbell's third collegiate start. "That is music to my ears," the former Dillard High School star says.

Joe Walkins is on the move.

Walkins, who had his jersey retired as a senior in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., because of his big-play ability, says that Campbell has lots of playmakers to work with this season. "We are able to do a whole lot of things on offense," Walkins says. "Just look at our wide receivers, for example. Tim Carter is a big-play speedster and I am pretty sure that Marcel Willis will be back this week. We have Jeris McIntyre, Justin Fetsko and me. We have a lot of weapons in that group and that is just the wide receivers.

"I hope the receivers will make some big plays on offense to help us win the game. I think special teams could be a big key in this game on Saturday night. We need to do our part."

Like many college freshmen, Walkins has never played a football game on artificial turf. He says that should be interesting and considering how quick the 5-8, 183-pounder is on grass, he should be especially hard to contain on the turf. "We do have it here to practice on and I feel pretty good running around on it. I like my artificial turf shoes that I will be wearing. When I first looked at them I thought they would be very heavy, but when I picked up them up I realized they were really light.

"It should be fun playing at the Carrier Dome," Walkins adds. "It looks like a nice arena, but the most important thing for us is to not worry about whether we are playing on grass or turf. The most important thing is to go out there on Saturday night concentrating on playing football. We do need to be aware of where we are playing, though, because I think everybody is faster on turf than they are on grass."

Concentration and communication are two of the major themes this week for the offense, which will be playing in an arena known for being very loud when the home team is performing well.

"This is going to be my first away game playing at Auburn University," Walkins says. "I think communication is going to be a very big key and not just between the quarterback and the receivers. One of the receivers might not get a call with all of the noise and it is going to be important for the receivers to communicate with each other."

Walkins says he believes the Tigers have made progress on offense since their 27-21 victory over Ole Miss nearly two weeks ago. "I think the chemistry of this team is coming together. I think everybody knows that we have a lot of potential and a lot of young talent. We have a lot of young guys in the backfield and it looks like we are coming around with Jason Campbell leading the way."

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone is well aware that Walkins has big-play potential. "He isn't a big guy, but he catches the ball well and he definitely knows what to do with it when he gets the ball in his hands," Mazzone says. Head coach Tommy Tuberville agrees and says, "A team needs guys like Joe who can turn an average play into a big one."

After almost breaking several punts for scores vs. Ball State, Walkins says he is eager to take one the distance. "The key is that returning punts is a team effort," he says. "We need to have all 11 guys working together to make big plays."

Auburn is not considered the favorite on Saturday night even though the Tigers are 2-0 and the Orangemen are 1-2 with losses to nationally-ranked Georgia Tech and Tennessee.

"I heard we are the underdogs," Walkins says. "I haven't heard exactly what the score is predicted to be, but we don't worry about things like that. We go out and work hard doing the week and it will show on Saturday. We have to stay focused on our game plan, go out and make some plans and win the ball game."

Walkins gained 18 pounds during his redshirt freshman year. He was impressive in practice last fall, but missed part of spring practice with an injury that caused him to miss the spring game. "I am over the hamstring problem," he says. "Our trainers did a great job and I have been full speed for a while now."

Tiger Ticket Extra: "Everything is fine with school and my life off the field," Walkins says. "I am a Christian and I gave my life to Christ on Feb. 10th. Walkins and 10 other teammates were baptized together by the Rev. Johnny Green and team chaplain Chette Williams, another former Tiger. "I think Coach Tuberville made a very wise decision in bringing Chette into our team. He has made such a positive difference. Chette is such an awesome man of God. He is the kind of person the players can sit down and talk to about advice in all different kind of situations. Coming from where I did in Fort Lauderdale, Chette is the first person I encountered who was such a strong man of God. Because of the success we have had with Chette helping us here at Auburn, a lot of other programs have copied it and it is something happening around the country...Walkins, who is a business major, says he enjoys the fan support he receives at Auburn. He says he does his best to try not to get a big head. "The important thing is to not think you are too good and try your best to stay humble," he says. "If you do that and work your best to getter better, things should work out. I will say it is extra motivation to have the fans supporting you because you want them to be happy with you."

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