Hoover, Ala.--Courtney Taylor has seen it all before. He was around in 2003 when the Auburn Tigers were picked to not only win the SEC but were the number one team in the country in several publications. After being a part of what transpired that season the senior said that being picked to win the SEC Championship by the media is something that means very little to him at the moment.
"None of that really matters," Taylor said. "We have been in that situation before. You can't believe that you are number one in this league. Each year you have to start over. We like to have that kind of respect, but we haven't earned it yet."
There's little doubt that Taylor and his teammates have playing well on their minds after the way 2005 ended in a loss to Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl. In fact Taylor said that every day the team gets a little reminder that you're only as good as your last game, something that doesn't sit well with the team.
"Coach Yoxall (strength coach) always wears the Capital One Bowl patch during workouts. There is not a day that goes by that we don't hear about it. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but that is something you have to get past. September 2, is the only game that matters right now. You have to take it one game at a time."
Courtney Taylor was dapper in a dark suit Friday at Media Days.
That game for now is Washington State. It is the first of a tough opening set of games for the Tigers with a trip to Mississippi State next before returning home to face LSU. Later in the season Auburn has home games with Florida, Arkansas and Georgia to look forward to as well. Taylor said that having those games at home this season is huge for the team.
"You have to love having all the big games at home," Taylor said. "We have the best fans in the country and we are going to be 88, 000 strong. It is a huge advantage to have games like LSU and Florida in your backyard and having the fans on your side."
Before Taylor could get into talking strictly football he first had to answer a series of questions from a reporter with the New York Times. Handling them with ease, Taylor eloquently stated what other players have been dying to say since the story broke.
"When it gets to the point where somebody questions you as a student you listen to it but at the same time you are a student-athlete," Taylor said. "Coach Tuberville and his staff do a great job of pushing us to be student-athletes. Trust me I would like to tell people, if I had anything good (favorable classes) I would have graduated by now."
Offensively the Tigers should be in good shape heading into the new season with starting quarterback Brandon Cox back after a very good season in his first as the starter in 2005. While there are several holes at receiver alongside Taylor the senior said he's confident that Auburn has the talent to keep the train rolling along under coordinator Al Borges.
"Some of our top guys have left, and these younger players have to step it up," Taylor said. "They have to take advantage of this opportunity. We have all of the talent; we just need to pull it all together. The offensive line is great. They usually don't get the credit that they deserve. Coach (Al) Borges is a mastermind. He gives everyone an opportunity to touch the ball. I have complete confidence in a man that takes players and makes them the best."
Not afraid to tell the group of reporters that he feels like he's the best receiver in the country, Taylor also said he knew he would have to back those statements up but that's something he's ready for. Someone who uses motivation to get the job done, Taylor said that he's finally healthy and ready to get back his role as go-to guy for the Tigers.
"I'm 100 percent now," Taylor said. "I think I did a great job of rehabbing it and our trainers did a great job of staying on me and making me when I didn't want to rehab. In the spring I felt like I was fine, but they told me to stay on top of things. That was great and I'm 100 percent now."
Kenny Irons' emergence last season was one of the bright spots for an offense that wound up leading the league in yards in 2005. Back for his senior season as well, Taylor said Irons isn't just a great football player but also someone that he enjoys being on the same team with.
"His personality was the first thing that caught me anyway," Taylor said. "Kenny Irons is probably the funniest guy I've ever met, just his personality. He doesn't think he's better than anybody. He'll break a 70-yard run and I guarantee you he'll thank everybody on the field. Then he'll walk to the sidelines and thank the coaches for calling the play. His personality blew me away from the beginning and his athletic ability speaks for itself.
"I think he's the best back in the country," he added. "I feel like after watching him this summer he's working his tail off to be the best back in the country."
The unquestioned top cat of the wide receiving corps, Taylor leads a group of talented but inexperienced players into battle this season. After watching them all spring and summer Taylor said there are several guys he's looking forward to seeing have an expanded role in 2006 as Auburn shoots for a return to Atlanta.
"I honestly feel like Lee Guess is going to have a huge year," Taylor said. "Prechae Rodriguez has a huge frame and he's thrilled about the opportunity to show what he can do. I feel like Robert Dunn and James Swinton and if you're looking for a freshman I feel like Tim Hawthorne is going to help us out a lot. We've got a lot of guys that are going to step up for us this year."