Sunday, October 26, 2008

Byrum will face competition again

AUBURN — Tommy Tuberville said Sunday that he reopened the kicking competition after Wes Byrum missed another costly field goal.
This time, punter Clinton Durst is in the mix along with Byrum and Morgan Hull.
“We looked at three kickers today,” Tuberville said. “(Durst) kicked. Pretty good kicker. We’re going to throw him in the mix.
“We’ve got to start making field goals. It’s just become a point now where somebody’s got to step up and do it. That’s just one area that we just haven’t had any consistency, so we’re trying to adjust that.”
Byrum tried a 44-yard field goal that would have tied the game in the fourth quarter against West Virginia. Instead, Byrum’s kick sailed wide left.
WVU scored on the ensuing possession and went on for a commanding 34-17 victory.
Byrum has connected on just 8 of 14 field goals this season.
This isn’t the first time Byrum has been pushed for the starting job. He outplayed Hull in practice a few weeks ago to keep his spot.
Tuberville said the trouble is carrying Byrum’s practice success into games.
“He never really has had a bad day in practice,” Tuberville said. “He gets in the game and for whatever reason, his plant foot gets turned wrong, he over-strides. And he’ll be the first to tell you, he’s so much of a competitor, he tries to drive the ball and it just hasn’t worked. We’ve just got to settle him down.”
That confidence might be dwindling as Durst gets more practice reps.
Durst has never kicked field goals before and has only attempted them in practice a few times.
Still, he had never punted before last fall either.
Durst said he has made a 60-yard kick with the wind at his back.
He doesn’t doubt that he could make a contribution to the team as a kicker, but seemed hesitant to make a move for Byrum’s spot.
“We’ve got a great kicker right now in Wes,” Durst said. “So I’ll just do it. They called me today and I thought we were meeting about punting, and they talked to me about kicking field goals. I’ll just do whatever they ask me to do.”
Tuberville said he hopes to have Durst game-ready soon.
“I want all three of them ready,” Tuberville said. “It’s not that we’re trying to put pressure on Wesley. We’re trying to see if anybody else can do it that we can say, ‘OK, you kicked good in warmup, go, kick.’”
• CHANGING LINES: Auburn made three lineup changes to its offensive line against the Mountaineers on Thursday.
Mike Berry played for injured right guard Byron Isom (concussion). Jason Bosley moved back to center, sliding Ryan Pugh to right tackle.
Tuberville said moving Bosley back inside was a simple matter of health.
“He’s a lot healthier than he was,” Tuberville said. “The communication is a lot better when we go two-back and the quarterback is under center. He felt a little bit more at home. I thought he worked pretty good for us.”
Pugh said the move was a seamless adjustment. Between the two, Bosley said Pugh is probably the better tackle anyway.
Berry stated this week as the first-team right guard, but that could change depending on Isom’s health.
• INJURY ROUNDUP: A pair of defensive backs loom as the biggest injury concerns facing Auburn right now.
Jerraud Powers played the entire WVU game with a sore hamstring and is expected to play again this week against Ole Miss.
Tuberville described Powers as playing “on one wheel.”
Powers’ primary backup, true freshman Neiko Thorpe, injured his ankle during the first half. Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said Thorpe is day-to-day.
Neither player practiced Sunday.
Tailback Ben Tate (hamstring) practiced, but Tuberville listed him at 80 percent healthy.
— Luke Brietzke

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