AUBURN, Ala. — Special teams coordinator Jay Boulware wouldn’t say for punter Clinton Durst and place-kicker Wes Byrum will start when Auburn opens its season against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 5, but he made it sound like that will be the case.
“It’s sure looking that way,” Boulware said Thursday.
Durst and Byrum, the incumbents, have battled to reclaim their starting spots this offseason.
Durst, a second-team preseason All-SEC pick who averaged 42.1 yards per punt last year, quit the team in January in a scholarship dispute. He returned for spring ball and battled Ryan Shoemaker for the starting job. Durst distinguished himself with a strong August, and head coach Gene Chizik rewarded the senior with a scholarship less than two weeks ago.
Byrum hopes to bounce back from last season, when he went 11-for-19 on field-goal attempts. He lost the top spot to walk-on Chandler Brooks in the spring but has come on strong, pulling ahead of Brooks and Morgan Hull.
During a live kicking drill at the beginning of Thursday’s practice, the junior made a 50-yarder to cap the session, clearing the bar with yards to spare.
“We’ll see how Byrum carries over,” Boulware said. “He’s done a phenomenal job for us this camp, and he’s had a number of days where he’s knocked every field goal through at the top of practice, and that’s big. Last spring, he couldn’t do that. So we’ll see where he ends up.”
Injured wide receiver Tim Hawthorne, who has been sidelined with a broken foot this summer, was not in pads Thursday, but he also was not wearing a protective boot on his right foot for the first time while participating in catching drills with receivers.
Does that mean the receiver is closer to a return?
“I don’t really know,” wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said. “I would like to (play him). If he can help us, I’ll put him out there. I’m definitely going to give him a shot because he’s earned it with his leadership, what he’s done this summer and even while he’s been hurt.”
Hawthorne, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound junior, caught eight passes for 203 yards last year.
No flu for you
Auburn has been spared by the flu that has affected the area. Other than backup quarterback Tyrik Rollison, who missed Tuesday’s practice, and Hawthorne, nobody else has shown flu-like symptoms.
BB&T Corporation has replaced Colonial Bank as one of the corporate sponsors of Auburn athletics.
The North Carolina-based bank, which recently secured the assets of the Montgomery-based Colonial BancGroup Inc., will sponsor the university’s football, basketball and baseball programs, placing its logo at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum and Plainsman Park.
Colonial Bank was founded by Bobby Lowder, an Auburn trustee and prominent Tigers football donor. BB&T acquired 90 branches in Alabama with its purchase of Colonial and is now the fourth-largest bank in the state.
LB Eltoro Freeman was back on the sidelines Thursday, doing conditioning work while the rest of the team did drills. Freeman has practiced sporadically this August because of hand and hamstring issues. He had a cast on his right arm again after shedding it for Tuesday’s practice. … Auburn will go to Jordan-Hare Stadium today for its final practice this week. Chizik plans to do situational work at the stadium. The Tigers will take Saturday off before going into their regular game-week schedule starting Sunday.