Tigers Unsettled on Kickoff Duties

A report on Auburn's kicking game is featured as the Tigers prepare for Saturday's Homecoming game.

Auburn, Ala.--Assistant football coach Eddie Gran says he hopes to have freshman Wesley Byrum healthy enough to resume his kickoff duties for Auburn's final two SEC games vs. Georgia and Alabama.

This week the freshman's assignment will be to get well and handle field goal and extra point duties only as the Tigers take on Tennessee Tech for Homecoming at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Byrum, who has worked through an ankle sprain suffered in game one, is currently recovering from a quadriceps muscle injury. Despite that he kicked a 36-yard field goal in Auburn's 17-3 victory over Ole Miss after his backup, sophomore Zach Kutch, badly missed a 42-yarder in the third quarter with the Tigers nursing a 7-3 lead.

"He will certainly will," is Gran's response, when asked if Byrum will handle field goal duties this week.

However, the freshman won't be kicking off vs. the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles and Gran says he isn't certain who will.

"What we want to do is get Wes healthy," Gran says. "That is the game plan."

Kutch, who kicked off vs. Ole Miss, is a possibility to handle the assignment again this week as is backup freshman punter Patrick Tatum, who has a strong leg. Another freshman walk-on, Morgan Hull, has bounced back from an injury and is getting a look in practice this week, Gran says.

Commenting on Byrum, who has hit 13-17 field goals going into this game against a team Auburn is heavily favored to defeat, Gran says, "This is a great opportunity for us to rest him. You get that full extension on the kickoff and it really puts a lot of stress on that thing so we won't kick him off again this week. I think if we get that thing rested, he will be full speed, which is what we are going to need."

Ole Miss started possessions after kickoffs at its own 36, 41, 50 and 38 yard lines with Kutch kicking off. "We had an opportunity for a guy to kick off--it didn't happen."

Gran says the Tigers have respect for a Tennessee Tech team that has been tremendous on kickoff returns this year. The Golden Eagles feature a senior, Larry Shipp, who has taken three kickoffs the distance for touchdowns this year. Henry Sailes, a freshman, has a touchdown return, too.

Ryan Shoemaker

While he was disappointed with the kickoffs on Saturday evening, Gran says he liked what he saw from redshirt freshman punter Ryan Shoemaker, who appears to be snapping out of a midseason slump. "His last six or seven punts have been right where they are supposed to be and the coverage was really good," the coach says.

Kickoff time for Saturday's Tennessee Tech game is 1:30 p.m. from Jordan-Hare Stadium. There is no television coverage available of the first-ever football game matching the Tigers and Golden Eagles.

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