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Friday, Jan. 14, 2011

Auburn football notes: Tigers defensive tackle Nick Fairley to announce today whether he is leaving early for NFL draft

- abitter@ledger-enquirer.com
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AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who experts are saying could be the No. 1 pick in April’s NFL draft, will announce today at noon at Williamson High School in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., whether he will go pro.

Fairley, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound junior who blossomed in his second year at Auburn, had one of the more memorable seasons for a defensive player in school history, finishing with 60 tackles, 24 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks.

He earned consensus All-America recognition and matched position coach Tracy Rocker’s achievement by winning the Lombardi Award, given annually to the nation’s top offensive or defensive lineman.

Fairley might have saved his best for last, finishing with five tackles, three tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble in Monday’s BCS title game win against Oregon, earning the defensive MVP honor.

Scouts Inc. has Fairley, who will turn 23 on Jan. 23, as the No. 2 overall draft eligible player on its list.

ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have Fairley going No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers.

“He’s a beast,” Kiper said on ESPN Thursday. “He has been a dominator since fall practice, when Auburn people said, ‘Watch out for this kid. He’s ready to take his game to an All-American level.’”

The deadline for draft-eligible underclassmen to declare is Saturday.

Cecil Newton update

Cam Newton’s father, Cecil, didn’t attend Monday night’s BCS title game, but did run in after the game was over to give his son a hug, his lawyer told USA Today.

“Mr. Newton viewed the game from an off-site location and came to the stadium after the game when everyone was leaving to personally congratulate his son,” attorney George Lawson told the newspaper. “He was probably at some sports bar or something like that. I don’t know.”

Lawson said he doesn’t know how long it took Cecil to get to the stadium.

It’s also unclear how Cecil got through stadium security. His lawyer said he doesn’t know whether Cecil had a ticket.

Cecil, whose access was limited to the Auburn program after the NCAA ruled he solicited money from Mississippi State for his son’s services last year, was photographed hugging Cam following the game by the Opelika-Auburn News.

Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs said beforehand that a decision for Cecil not to attend was “mutually agreed upon.”

“Out of the highest respect that Cecil has for Cameron, he won’t be here today,” Jacobs said.

Auburn said it did not provide Cecil with a ticket Monday night.

Texas interviews Grimes

Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes interviewed for the same position with Texas on Thursday, according to multiple reports.

Grimes, 42, who joined the Tigers two years ago when head coach Gene Chizik assembled his staff, is a native of Garland, Texas, who played at the University of Texas-El Paso.

Grimes’ veteran offensive line helped Auburn rush for a school record 3,987 yards, averaging 284.8 yards per game.

According to Orangebloods.com, Oklahoma State’s Joe Wickline is another candidate to replace Mac McWhorter, who retired after this past season.

Early enrollees

Three players from Auburn’s 2011 recruiting class have enrolled in school, along with 2010 signee Shon Coleman, according to Auburnundercover.com.

Cornerback Jonathan Rose of Leeds, Ala., center Reese Dismukes of Spanish Fort, Ala., and offensive guard Thomas O’Reilly of Marietta, Ga., graduated high school to enroll in time for winter workouts and spring practice. Coleman, an offensive tackle, was diagnosed with leukemia last spring. Although he has been declared cancer-free, he is still undergoing treatments. He expects to redshirt next season.

Extra point

Kicker Wes Byrum accepted an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine Game in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 22.

Byurm made a 19-yard field goal with no time left on the clock in the BCS title game to give Auburn a 22-19 victory against Oregon.

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