Gandy Eager to Contribute in Cotton Bowl

Auburn linebacker Steve Gandy could see expanded playing time in the Cotton Bowl.

Auburn, Ala.--It's been an up and down season for linebacker Steve Gandy. When the Tigers close their season on New Year's Day he will have a chance to end it as a key member of the Auburn defense.

With Coach Tommy Tuberville announcing the "indefinite suspension" of linebackers Tray Blackmon and Kevin Sears on Friday, that means that Gandy could see significant action in the Cotton Bowl game vs. Nebraska.

For a player who got off to a great start in preseason but suffered a compartment syndrome injury that required surgery, the 2006 season as a whole has been a mixed bag.

Steve Gandy is shown in bowl practice on Friday.

After making the move from safety to linebacker, Gandy won praise from his coaches and was pushing for a starting job. However, the injury and the surgery turned out to be a very serious issue on what originally looked to be just a minor bruise suffered in practice. There was concern that Gandy might not be able to play in any games this season.

However, the good news for the linebacker is that he recovered more quickly than expected and was able to play in nine of Auburn's 12 regular season games. He made 11 tackles and started one game, but admits that he has been rusty since his return.

"The bowl practices are real important for me," Gandy says. "I need them for confidence in myself and for the coaches gaining confidence in me to see that I am ready to play more in this bowl game.

"These practices mean a lot," adds Gandy, who weighed 204 before surgery and dropped to 182 pounds. He is back up to 203, he notes. "Now that I am back to almost like full-go it is important that I play well."

Gandy says that he feels like he is a different player than he was immediately after coming back from his surgery. "I just feel so much more explosive and am able to do the stuff I used to do," he says. "It is a big difference.

"I am pretty close (to full speed)," he adds. "There are a couple of things as far as cutting. I am still a bit slow out of certain cuts, but I am back ready to go. I would say I am about 95 percent."

Gandy says it is important to him to win the Cotton Bowl game vs. the Cornhuskers. "We want to bring the 2007 season in right and send the 2006 seniors out with a blast. It is important to us to send players like Will (Will Herring), Dede (Karibi Dede), Tim (Tim Duckworth), Grubbs (Ben Grubbs) and Kenny (Irons) out with a win. They have all worked so hard to establish Auburn for what it is.

"One of the worst feelings I had last year was walking off the field after the bowl game in Orlando and looking at T.J.'s eyes (Tommy Jackson) and Travis' (Travis Williams) and seeing them blurry. Not only did we lose, we got kicked."

Gandy and the Tigers will practice on campus through Thursday before breaking for Christmas.

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