"I have done it a season and a half so far," Bynes said of playing almost every snap. I've done it about 20 games straight. It doesn't matter. I just love being out there. The players are very dependent on me. They look for me. When I'm in high spirits they are going to be in the same situation. A lot of players look up to me in that role. A lot of players depend on me and I love that."
Leading Auburn with 94 tackles this season while adding five tackles for losses, an interception, and a sack, Bynes has been rock solid in the middle for the Tigers in a year when the defense has struggled at times to hold opponents down. Much of the reason for that has been a lack of depth at several key positions, but particularly at linebacker.
Injuries to Eltoro Freeman, Spencer Pybus, Adam Herring and Harris Gaston left the Tigers with as few as three healthy scholarship linebackers at times, something that shouldn't be a problem next season. With a talented group of incoming players at the position such as Jake Holland, Jawara White, LaDarius Owens and early enrollee Jessel Curry, Auburn should be much stronger at linebacker in 2010.
In turn that could allow the defense to be more versatile as well as more aggressive in coach Ted Roof's second season as coordinator. Known as an aggressive coach on that side of the ball, Roof's first Auburn team has responded by forcing 19 turnovers and sacking the quarterback 25 times this season. That is one more turnover and four sacks more than the 2008 Auburn defense, but Bynes said he expects even more.
"I feel like if there were a lot more players behind us then there would be a lot more things we could incorporate into this defense and do more tricks against the offense," Bynes said. "That's going to be a help, but at the same time they're young. We're not going to have a whole bunch of junior college guys coming in with a bunch of experience it's going to be freshmen. They're going to have to pick up the game. None of them have played in front of 90,000 so it's going to be a whole different ballgame."
Following its best performance of the season in a loss to Alabama, Auburn's defense enters the Outback Bowl against Northwestern a confident group. With time off to get injured players such as Freeman and Zach Clayton back to full speed, the Tigers should have a chance to have another good game on defense. Something else that aids in that is extra practice time between the end of final exams and the game on Jan. 1.
"It's new just to have nothing but football on your mind," Bynes said. "Just like coach (Gene Chizik) has said all week it's an NFL mentality. For the seniors it's something to get used to. It's a good thing to have everybody focused on this one game. It's not like the regular season where you have three practices to get ready for a game. We'll have what 15 practices for the game. There is a lot of stuff that goes into it. It's draining, but we just have to go to work."
With a chance to finish the year at 8-5 with a win over Northwestern, Auburn is going into the game with a very business-like attitude. Bynes said the importance of winning the game for the seniors is big enough, but for the guys returning it's a chance to get a jump on 2010.
"It's like momentum going into the next season," Bynes said. "You always want to come off a strong last game. You don't want to be sloppy. We're not going to knock the fact that they're 8-4. They're 8-4 for a good reason. They beat Wisconsin and Iowa and those are two good teams. You see a team like that and you can't take them lightly. It's going to be momentum going into the offseason."