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Auburn’s Kodi Burns, a freshman quarterback, says he hopes to see some playing time this season.
AP photo by Todd J. Van Emst
Auburn’s Kodi Burns, a freshman quarterback, says he hopes to see some playing time this season.

AU kicker joins other freshmen reporting

By Ross Dellenger · 340-2460

AUBURN — On page 34 of the Auburn football media guide, you’ll find the depth chart. Under place-kickers, the first name you’ll see is that of true freshman Wes Byrum in bold lettering, symbolizing his starting role with the football team.

His is the only name of a true freshman in bold type.

“I like seeing my name there, but I have a lot of work to do to make sure it stays there,” Byrum said Wednesday evening, as he sat in one of the leather couches that dot the Rane Room in the Auburn athletic building, the 1997 Peach Bowl trophy sparkling in its glass case over his left shoulder.

“It makes me feel good, but I have a lot of work to do. I have to perform to get that spot.”

Byrum, ranked by as the No. 2 kicker prospect in the nation, was one of 19 scholarship football players who officially reported for preseason practice Wednesday. Seven walk-ons also reported.

Scattered about the museum-esque Rane room, the 18- and 19-year-olds spoke for about 30 minutes with reporters before being rushed to dinner. Although Wednesday was the official reporting day, most of the freshmen have been in Auburn throughout the summer working out.

Byrum, along with a few others, has the opportunity to be a starter Sept. 1, when the Tigers kick off the 2007 season at home against Kansas State.

Linebacker Josh Bynes, quarterback Kodi Burns and defensive back Michael McNeil are other freshmen who Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville singled out last week as players who could benefit the team this season.

And to think, just two months, ago they were graduating high school.

“I don’t feel nervous,” said McNeil, a four-star safety from Mobile who has been in Auburn since June and has completed six hours of summer school. “The main thing I need to do is learn the playbook.”

A hassle for anyone. Learning offensive coordinator Al Borges’ playbook is usually the barrier most young players cannot seem to hurdle in their first year.

Burns, a quarterback from Fort Smith, Ark., has to learn the playbook, too, but he also must wade through a throng of backup quarterbacks, as well as senior starting quarterback Brandon Cox. But Burns knows that.

“They are not going to hand me the job,” he said. “If I do pretty well in two-a-days, I could see some playing time. But if I redshirt, it won’t be a bad thing.”

After a whirlwind day that included their first media interviews, physicals and several team meetings, the freshmen wake up to a 10 a.m. practice Thursday.

The returning players will practice at 4:30 p.m.

The start of two-a-days begins Tuesday.

“I’m the same as everybody else right now,” said Byrum of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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