Walk-ons Making Moves In Auburn Kicking Game

An Auburn spring football report features the kicking game for Coach Gene Chizik's Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--With the Tigers one-third of the way through spring training, Auburn's special teams coordinator says that walk-ons are currently at the top of the depth chart for two and possibly three kicking game positions.

Jay Boulware, who is directing the special teams, says that the current number one field goal kicker is a redshirt freshman walk-on who showed up for tryouts in the winter, Chris "Chandler" Brooks from Huntsville. The walk-on hit a 51-yard field goal in a live drill on Wednesday night at practice.

"He is doing a phenomenal job for us right now," says Boulware, who has each field goal kicker attempt at least eight field goals each practice in live work.

Wes Byrum, who had a sophomore slump after an outstanding freshman season, is running number two for the field goal duties ahead of walk-on Morgan Hull.

"Byrum is competing, Byrum is in there," Boulware says. "He is slugging it out. Right now, Hull is a little bit further behind. Byrum and Brooks are battling it out right now. It is an interesting battle."

Wes Byrum has been Auburn's primary field goal kicker the past two seasons.

The Tigers must replace steady 2008 senior Robert Shiver as the deep snapper. His top backup, Josh Harris from Carrollton, Ga., is currently running number one with tight end Bailey Woods number two ahead of redshirt freshman Dax Dellenbach, a scholarship redshirt freshman.

Bailey Woods

Charlie Knipper, who took an official visit to Auburn earlier this year, may be joining the team as a walk-on this coming season. He is from Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.

Another walk-on, a more familiar one to Auburn fans, has a chance to be at the top of the depth chart at the end of spring practice. Clinton Durst, who was Auburn's number one punter most of the 2008 season, is battling Ryan Shoemaker, a scholarship junior who was the number one punter two seasons ago.

Boulware says he believes in working "very closely" with the punters, kickers and deep snappers to make sure they are using proper technique.

The coach says he likes what he is seeing from the punters. "Clinton has been punting phenomenal," he says. However, Durst still has work to do on his consistency, Boulware points out. "One of the things I noticed on film when I studied him last year is that often times, even though he had good hang time, ever so often he would miss and hit a bad one."

Durst also hit a lot of his punts to the right side of the field due to his form, says Boulware, who notes that he is working on Durst's form to make him more consistent. Boulware says the Tigers plan to use "directional punting" this fall to help the coverage teams.

Durst, who joined the team last year after having never played football, was out-punted in Wednesday evening's practice by Shoemaker, Boulware says. "He didn't have a very good day today, but Shoemaker had a phenomenal day today. We have really been honing in on him (Shoemaker) trying to get him ready to go. I will be curious to see how it turns out.

Clinton Durst

"Both of those kids have ability. Durst has been striking the ball the best, the most consistent in camp, but Shoemaker today was out of this world. He really was out of this world. He looked like Durst and Durst looked like Shoemaker to be honest with you."

Another walk-on, redshirt freshman Justin Albert, is making a push to be the number one punt returner. Albert, a star player at Prattville High School, rehabbed a knee injury last fall.

Justin Albert

Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor notes that he has looked at nine guys as possible punt returners, but currently there are just three others in the mix with Albert. That trio includes running back/receiver Mario Fannin, wide receiver Quindarius Carr and cornerback Walt McFadden.

The Tigers worked on kickoffs on Wednesday and Boulware says, "I am not pleased with what I saw today at all. The hang time on those balls was not anything close to what I am used to now. I had two freshmen last year at Iowa State that were a little bit better than we have right now."

Boulware says the Tigers will begin working on kickoff returns at Thursday's practice.

Head coach Gene Chizik has noted that he will emphasize special teams and Boulware says the Tigers are certainly doing that. "We spend as much time (on special teams) as most NFL teams do in practice," Boulware says.


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