Auburn’s got a front-runner in its kicking competition, and it’s probably someone you’ve never heard of.
Chandler Brooks, a walk-on redshirt freshman from Huntsville, Ala., is leading the place-kicking competition, according to special teams coach Jay Boulware, ahead of incumbent Wes Byrum and Morgan Hull, a pair of juniors.
“He’s consistent,” Boulware said of Brooks. “He nailed a 51-yarder today at the end of practice. He’s doing a phenomenal job for us right now.”
Brooks joined the team after the Feb. 4 walk-on tryouts, impressing Boulware with the hangtime on kickoffs. How obscure is he right now? When asked, Boulware couldn’t even come up with his first name.
“I know him as Brooks,” Boulware said. “The kid with the yellow shoes.”
Byrum, who made only 11 of 19 field goal attempts last season, is still in the competition, and Hull is “a little further behind,” according to Boulware.
“It isn’t over with yet,” said Boulware, who has each participant do eight live kicks per practice. “They’re competing, slugging it out right now.”
Narrowing the field
When Auburn started spring drills, nine players put their names in the competition to return punts. That list is now down to four.
“By attrition, we may come up with one,” said receivers coach Trooper Taylor, who is evaluating the returners.
The four who have made it past the first part of what Taylor termed the “interview process” are sophomore Quindarius Carr, redshirt freshman Justin Albert, junior Mario Fannin and senior Walt McFadden, none of whom have returned punts in a game. That’s why Taylor is drilling them on simply catching the ball.
“The one thing we want to do is not let that ball hit the ground,” Taylor said. “That’ll check yourself out a little bit. The drills are really physical. I want them to practice like a game.”
Auburn scrimmaged during Wednesday’s practice, running 30 to 35 plays by head coach Gene Chizik’s estimate.
Although he was hesitant to provide too many details, Chizik did say he was impressed by the defense’s physicality. He also said running backs Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb both had long runs.
“Really some good things on both side of the ball,” Chizik said. “High energy toward the end of practice, which is good to see.”
The Tigers hope to have a full scrimmage Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium if the weather cooperates. It is closed to both the media and public.
When football games begin this fall, Auburn will be the first NCAA school to use GuestAssist, a text message-based system that will allow ticket holders to communicate with event staff. The system is already used by a number of professional sports teams across the country.
The system allows spectators to use their mobile phone to text message any questions, concerns or requests to a command center in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The operator can then send a reply message with information or, if necessary, dispatch security, guest services or medical staff to the appropriate location.