Lots Of Tigers Working On Punt Return Team

This article takes a look at who fans can expect to see on the field when the Tigers are returning punts vs. Georgia Tech.

Auburn, Ala.--Junior tailback Tre Smith will likely open the season as Auburn's number one punt returner, but an elusive true freshman is making a push for the assignment.

Robert Dunn, a wide receiver from Augusta, Ga., has proven to be tough to get a handle on in tackling drills during the preseason and has also shown good hands fielding punts.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville, who takes a keen interest in the kicking game, says ball security is job one for his featured punt return man. He notes that the coaches have considered a redshirt season for Dunn, but based on his play in practice he has a good chance to play for the Tigers this fall.

"I really don't know what is going to happen with that," Dunn says on his playing status. "I am just concentrating on doing what the coaches want me to do and trying to learn all of the assignments and get better."

Dunn has made some of the better tacklers on the team struggle when trying to put him on the ground in one on one situations. Tuberville notes that Dunn's excellent feet and speed should be an asset to the receiver corps, too.

Eddie Gran, who directs the punt teams, is big on not fumbling, too. A ball on the ground is his pet peeve whether it is a running back carrying the pigskin or a punt or kickoff returner mishandling a kick.

In 2002 as a true freshman, Smith returned six punts and averaged 10.2 yards per return. In 2003 he was the primary punt returner and averaged 9.1 yards on 36 opportunities. Last year he was injured and received a medical hardship redshirt, but did get four returns for a total of 30 yards.

Tre Smith catches a punt in a practice earlier this month.

The next two returners in the current pecking order are players with sure hands--cornerback Anthony Campbell, a redshirt freshman from Hialeah, Fla., and wide receiver Lee Guess, who graduated this summer but still has two seasons of eligibility.

With the opening game less than two weeks away, other players on the number one punt return team include cornerbacks David Irons and Montae Pitts, running back Tristan Davis, safeties Tony Bell and Steve Gandy, wide receivers Devin Aromashodu, Courtney Taylor and Anthony Mix and running backs Kenny Irons and Carl Stewart.

Robert Dunn has been one of the more impressive freshmen in preseason workouts.

Among the other Tigers who have seen practice time on the punt return team include Patrick Lee, Jonathan Wilhite, Zach Gilbert, Patrick Trahan, Chris Evans, David Irons, Lorenzo Ferguson, Eric Brock, Brant Haynie, Tray Blackmon, Danny Perry, Blake Schrader, Ben Obomanu, Danny Perry and Quentin Groves.

Auburn opens the season on Saturday, Sept. 3rd at 7:45 p.m at soldout Jordan-Hare Stadium vs. Georgia Tech attempting to extend a 15-game winning streak.

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