Chizik Praises Byrum, Durst

Gene Chizik discusses his concern about the linebacker situation, talks about the kicking game and other news and notes from Auburn's Wednesday night football practice are featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Gene Chizik called Wednesday night's two-hour practice under the lights "upbeat" as the Tigers practiced in shorts and helmets.

Kicker Wes Byrum and punter Clinton Durst earned some praise from the head coach after what Chizik said was a "situational" practice.

Byrum was 6-6 on field goals under a live pass rush. "He kicked one low ball tonight that I saw," Chizik said. "Other than that, the other ones I saw had some good height on them. I think he has been kicking well.

"We would like to see him be more consistent," Chizik added. "There are still some flashes of inconsistency that we really need to eliminate, but overall I think he has been kicking better."

Commenting on the punting game and starter Durst, who was put on scholarship on Monday, Chizik said, "I think we have made some strides. Obviously, our punt (spread formation) is a little bit different than they have been used to in the past, which requires the punters to do a little bit different technique things, but I think he is getting better.

"I still see some flashes of inconsistencies, but he has had some great punts, great hang time. He has done a nice job."

Clinton Durst will be a senior this season for the Tigers.

With the Tigers short on depth at linebacker, Chizik said as tempting as it is to move a player there from another position he doesn't see logical candidates to make the move. The Tigers tried freshman Dee Ford there, but he struggled in that role and returned to defensive end."

Injuries in preseason to the linebackers have been an issue for the defense, the head coach notes.

"Coach Roof (defensive coordinator Ted Roof) and I are in constant discussions about the what ifs," Chizik said. "We have got 14 more weeks before we get a break, give or take, and we are very conscious of that and you have got to have a plan if that happens, which it very well could

"Those plans generally are being able to sub and do different packages that require less linebackers. We have got a plan."

In other news:

*Running backs coach Curtis Luper said that senior Ben Tate continues to run first team at tailback. The number two tailback could be Onterio McCalebb, Eric Smith or Mario Fannin, who spends approximately half his time at H-back.

*The Tigers are scheduled to practice under the lights for a third consecutive time on Thursday night to avoid conflicts with classes.

*Redshirt freshman Philip Pierre-Louis is working with the punt returner group along with Montez Billings, Zac Etheridge, Mario Fannin, Anthony Gulley and Emory Blake. The wide receiver returned to practice for the first time on Tuesday after serving a suspension from Chizik for undisclosed reasons. Pierre-Louis was limited in spring training as he recovered from knee surgery. He was injured on the opening kickoff of the 2008 season.

*The lighting at the practice field leaves a lot to be desired. Chizik's staff has brought in some rental lights to brighten up the situation.

*Byrum was sharp in the full speed field goal kicking drills tonight. He made a PAT range kick and then hit field goals from 22, 33, 37, 40 and 47 without a miss.


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