Running Back Trying To Make A Difference

This player is appreciated by his teammates and coaches for his efforts throughout game weeks.

Auburn, Ala.--After earning some praise from the coaching staff and fans who got to watch him perform in spring training, Kenny Irons has been an almost forgotten name as the Auburn football team has won nine consecutive games and the SEC West title.

However, members of the defense and the coaching staff know that the Tiger tailback is playing a significant role in Auburn's success this year. Head coach Tommy Tuberville says the 2004 scout teams are the best he has seen in his tenure as a head coach. One of the reasons why is the play of Irons, a hard-running transfer from the University of South Carolina, who is a redshirt this season.

"What I do is very important," says Irons, who enrolled at Auburn in January this year to join his brother David, who is a cornerback for the Tigers. David is sitting out this season recovering from a knee injury.

"I take pride in what I do and I make sure that I give the defense the looks that it needs," Irons says. "When I run a play, I make sure I do it 100 percent. If the defense makes a mistake, the coaches can get onto them so in Saturday's game they won't make that mistake again."

Tuberville says he likes the effort the scout teams have put in week after week to imitate the next opponent's offense and defense. This week the scouts are running Georgia's plays on offense and the UGA defensive system.

"We take our role seriously--very seriously," Irons says. "The coaches take it seriously, too. If we make a mistake we get chewed out, too, just like we are starters. We are also preparing ourselves to get ready to play for next season.

"Right now, the most important thing is to get the defense ready to play Georgia, and then Alabama and whoever we play after that," Irons adds. "This week I am mimicking (Georgia running back) Danny Ware so I try to run like him so the defense can get a feel for how he runs so it won't be a problem come Saturday."

Kenny Irons runs in practice.

With seniors Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown being held out of much of the contact work in spring drills because they had nothing to prove to the coaching staff, there were carries available for Irons and he stepped up and played well.

"I was very surprised about spring practice," he says. "I didn't think I was going to get that much work, but me being able to give the coaches a look at what they have got coming up in 2005 was nice. I am looking forward to the chance to compete for playing time or a starting job next spring. It is pretty nice that I am getting a second chance to play at another school."

Irons transferred after this sophomore season at South Carolina and has been able to see differences between the AU program and what Lou Holtz is doing in Columbia, S.C.

"Coaching-wise, I see the coaches here are more hands on," Irons says. "At South Carolina, they are kind of back a little bit because Lou took over more of the offensive side and the defensive side and the coaches didn't really have a chance to take over their positions. They are more organized here than at South Carolina. Here everything is on schedule, on beat. South Carolina is a little off-beat. Auburn has a better team than Carolina. That is what matters most."

Irons says he likes how the players and coaches interact at Auburn. "A lot of the players there are more about themselves and they thought about the NFL," Irons says. "Here, I noticed the guys like Carnell and Carlos (cornerback Carlos Rogers), guys who have the talent to go on to the next level, they are not really big-headed at all.

"Here we have a lot of team unity," Irons notes. "All of the players are together. The younger players take coaching from the older players. Whether it is a teammate or coach, the players listen. Even the redshirts, if we do something wrong, the other players will help us to show us what we are doing wrong so we can better ourselves as football players for the future. That is pretty nice."

Irons says personally his number one goal is to do a good job on the scout team. After that, he is working on getting stronger and a little larger. "I have gained a few good pounds," he says. "I weigh 199 right now. I am trying to get over the 200-pound hump."

A standout at Dacula, Ga., High School, the Georgia game week has gotten his attention. On Saturday, the biggest game of the season matches a pair of Top 10 teams at Jordan-Hare Stadium with the 9-0 Tigers facing the 8-1 Bulldogs.

"Dez Williams, who I played high school ball with, is the starting fullback at Georgia and he called me the other day," Irons says. "He said, ‘We're not that good.' He was talking a lot of trash. All I told him is we will just wait until Saturday comes to see what happens."

If good things happen for the Auburn defense, Kenny Irons will have very good reason to smile, knowing he contributed to his team's success.

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