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Friday, Oct. 02, 2009

Taylor returns to familiar place

- abitter@ledger-enquirer.com
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AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor is about as excitable as it gets, whether it’s at a practice, an interview or a game.

So just because he’s returning this weekend to Knoxville, where he was an assistant for four years, doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be taking things to another level.

“I think he’s at the level where you just can’t crank it up anymore,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik joked. “I don’t know that he can get more excited on a daily basis than he already is.”

Taylor was a Vols assistant on Phil Fulmer’s staff from 2004-07, coaching first running backs and then wide receivers during that time, holding an assistant head coach title as well. He was an integral part of recruiting a number of players still on Tennessee’s roster, including safety Eric Berry and running back Montario Hardesty.

Taylor said he learned a lot during his time from Fulmer, who he described as genuine, “a guy making almost $2 million and he’d walk across the street and there’d be paper blowing and he’d stop and pick it up.”

He also liked the way Tennessee went after top-ranked recruits from all over the country.

“They didn’t back down. They go after anybody,” he said. “They don’t care who’s recruiting them. … They felt like, when they had that ‘T’ on their chest, you’re in the top 5 and most of the time they were correct.”

Taylor left Tennessee for Oklahoma State in 2008, mainly for the chance to become co-offensive coordinator. He joined Chizik’s staff at Auburn last January.

“I’ve been doing this my 17th year, and I’ve been able to take jobs when I was ready, not because I had to,” Taylor said. “Being in this business and not ever being fired, I’d like to keep that record going, keep that streak alive.

“You always try to go and do your best. If you take a job thinking, ‘I’m going to go to the next one,’ you probably won’t be there long. But if you take a job thinking it will be your last, you’ll be there for a while. That’s what I try to do.”

Former assistant

For 10 years, Eddie Gran served as Tommy Tuberville’s running backs and special teams coach at Auburn, a run that came to an end when Tuberville abruptly resigned last December.

It didn’t take Gran long to land on his feet, getting a job on Lane Kiffin’s staff at Tennessee, where he has the same coaching duties.

Gran was responsible for recruiting a number of players on Auburn’s roster, one of which was cornerback Walt McFadden, who is looking forward to the meeting.

“We know how he used to use other people and teams and talk about them when he was here with us,” McFadden said. “We know he’s saying the same thing about us. We can see him now saying ‘These guys are sorry. These guys can’t do it. These guys are going to give up.’

“That’s just motivation for us, so we know our old coach and how he acts on game week. He don’t mean no harm by it, that’s just him motivating his team.”

Still perfect

Place-kicker Wes Byrum knocked through a 32-yard field goal against Ball State in his only attempt, making him a perfect 6-for-6 on the season, with four of those kicks coming from 40 yards or longer.

That’s a positive start for the junior, who suffered through an 11-for-19 sophomore campaign.

“I don’t know that ‘surprised’ is the right word,” special teams coordinator Jay Boulware said. “When I first got here, I wasn’t pleased with his production, or lack there of, in the spring or what I looked and saw on tape last year. We got him out there and worked some things, tried to dress up some things like his followthrough. He’s really worked hard at it, guys. All the credit goes to Wes.”

Boulware didn’t want to get ahead of himself with praise, however.

“We’re only a third of the way through (the season),” he said.

“Let’s see how he finishes up.”

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