Preparing For Prime Time

This Auburn wide receiver is hoping to jump-start the Tiger offense into the 2002 season.

Atlanta, Ga.--Coming into the 2001 season wide receiver Joe Walkins was hoping for a breakout fall for himself and the Tiger offense. Instead, he got more of a breakdown at times.

Scoring just 22.2 points per game for the year, Auburn's offensive output was downright offensive at times leaving the redshirt freshman to sit and ponder what went wrong.

Joe Walkins heads back to his station during a passing drill at the Georgia Dome.

Following a rigorous schedule of practices that included nearly a week of two-a-day practices, Walkins says he believes the offense is headed in the right direction under the guidance of quarterback Jason Campbell. With just 12 catches for 124 yards and no touchdowns, Walkins is looking to have a big game on New Year's Eve.

"Everything has been spirited," Walkins notes. "We know we've had some ups and downs this season, but the guys are just getting it together. We're very fortunate to have a bowl game with Chick-fil-A inviting us to the bowl game. We're just out here having fun. The coaches are making it very fun as well."

The fun part usually came at the end of the practices for the players and coaches alike as Coach Tommy Tuberville would single out two players to go head-to-head inside a circle of teammates. That started the first day of bowl practice as Mark Brown and Michael Owens battled it out. On the second day though Tuberville changed things up a bit.

"Usually only one person goes, but after that Coach Tubs said ‘we're going to have one more, Junior Rosegreen and Joe Walkins. The Dillard Boys.' We went out there and got it hyped a little bit. I tried to drop him on his head, but I couldn't get him like I wanted him though. It is very fun and very spirited but we also know December 31st we have to be about business because North Carolina is coming to play."

Joe Walkins is looking to breakout vs. the Tar Heels.

Bringing in one of the more experienced and talented defenses the Tigers have faced this season, the Tar Heels present a huge challenge for the Auburn offense. Led by All-American, Lombardi and Bednarik Award winning defensive end Julius Peppers and defensive tackle Ryan Sims, North Carolina allowed just 127.5 rushing yards per game and totaled 26 sacks. For an offense struggling for an identity this could be the perfect chance to build some confidence heading into next season.

"They have some key players on their defense," Walkins says of the Tar Heels. "This is going to be a real good game to step up and make some key plays and show that we can move the ball on offense, even though it is the last game of the season. But, we're getting this opportunity so we need to make the best of it."

Making the most of an opportunity is what Walkins hopes to do in the return game as well. Opening the season as Auburn's punt returner, the speedy receiver was replaced by Roderick Hood almost halfway through the season because of a problem holding onto the ball. But, following some evaluation time by coach Eddie Gran and the rest of the staff regarding special teams, Walkins has been put back in the return role for North Carolina, something he hopes will pay dividends towards an Auburn victory.

"It's exciting," he notes. "Right now it's not punt return, they have me back at kickoff return with Tim Carter. I'm very excited because I'm pretty sure they're not going to kick Tim the ball so I'm pretty excited about getting back there and having some returns. I've been having fun all week, we've been having fun but we're taking this bowl game very seriously. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to make some key plays for the team."

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