While several starters on defense were banged up against Kansas State including Jonathan Wilhite (hamstring), Tray Blackmon (ankle), and Aairon Savage (ankle), the injury situation is perhaps the most critical at kicker where true freshman Wes Byrum injured his kicking ankle while covering a kickoff early in Saturday's game and continued to kick field goals the rest of the night. Tuberville said they decided to take him off the kickoff team because he couldn't run but he was pleased overall with how Wes handled his first game on the collegiate level. He said that they'll kick both Graham Sutter and Zach Kutch some this week just in case Byrum is unable to go next week. Byrum is expected to be held out of practice at least through the middle of the week.
"We'll wait and see," Tuberville said. "It's swollen a little bit. It's his kicking foot. It will be one of those deals we'll see what happens. He hurt it on a kickoff where he covered. I asked him if he has not watched film, kickers do not run all the way down there and make tackles. That's that old defensive mentality…Wesley could kick. He kicked last night and kicked two field goals with the ankle the way it was.
"He's got a different mentality," Tuberville added. "We've talked about that and how headstrong he is. He thinks he can do anything. That's what you like about a kicker. Nothing really bothers him. I really thought he would make the 47-yarder but he kicked it a little right. I really thought we were going to have to kick another field goal to beat them the way we were struggling on offense. It all worked out."
The kicking game was huge for the Tigers in the victory over Kansas State and it was a good thing as the offense struggled to get untracked until very late in the contest. Tuberville said the reasons filtered down from quarterback Brandon Cox to the offensive line and everyone in between. He said a lot of problem stemmed from technique mistakes that must be corrected.
"It was a little of both," Tuberville said. "A lot had to do with Kansas State running some things we hadn't seen and had to make adjustments to on the sideline. There were some times we slid the protection wrong by Brandon and some were guys' technique wasn't good. You can't win many games when you rush for 50 yards. You always hear me say that. It's just almost impossible."
A lot of the problems came up front where senior King Dunlap had an off night to say the least. Tuberville said overall he wasn't pleased with the performance of the first five but the effort was there and was something he can live with in a first game.
"We didn't grade real well," Tuberville said. "I would say (Jason) Bosley probably graded out the best. He did a good job. The effort was good for the most part but our technique just wasn't very good…it was the first game. I'll let you know in a few weeks if I'm concerned. As long as we keep the effort the way it is. The last few games we've had we've seen teams bring the house. It's do or die but it eventually caught up with them last night. We stayed with what we were doing and it worked. You can't have too many of those close calls. The last two games have been pretty close, the last three I guess."
One offensive question mark that still remains is where was running back Mario Fannin. Only playing one offensive snap on the night, the back that was so impressive in spring and fall practice instead watched virtually the entire game from the sidelines. Tuberville said they just didn't feel comfortable putting Fannin in that situation with Kansas State blitzing so often but the redshirt freshman is someone they're going to ease into playing similar to Kenny Irons, Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams in the past.
"One of the deals is that he was hurt for a while in two a days and got behind," Tuberville said. "He'll be fine. He's going to be a good player. It just wasn't the time last night."
Defensively Tuberville said he was pleased with the effort of several key reserves on the defense that came in a played for much of the second half. Linebacker Chris Evans and cornerbacks Zach Gilbert and Walter McFadden came in and provided a huge contribution to Saturday's win.
Safety Lorenzo Ferguson and wide receiver Terrell Zachery didn't dress for Saturday's opener. Tuberville said both were in the dog house at the moment and wouldn't specify what they had done to be punished. He also wouldn't clarify when or if they would have the chance to return to his good graces.