AUBURN, ALABAMA FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK
AUBURN — Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said starting kicker Wes Byrum and walk-on Morgan Hull, an Austin High grad, continue to compete for the kickoff spot.
When asked if Byrum will be the starting kickoff specialist Saturday, Tuberville said, “No. We’ll see as we go through the week who’s got the hot hand.”
Coaches announced last week that Byrum won the kickoff and field-goal kicking jobs over a host of players. But Tuberville would like a different player to kick off, allowing Byrum to focus on extra points and field goals.
A Decatur Daily all-area and all-state selection, Hull walked on to the team last week and has impressed coaches with his strong leg.
Tuberville said coaches will even go as far as to “watch (the two kickers) warm up” just before the game and then make a decision.
“Wes has kicked well. Morgan has kicked well,” Tuberville said.
During his senior year at Austin High, Hull made 14 of 16 field goals, including a long of 53 yards. Hull had athletic scholarship offers from some schools, including Arkansas and Ole Miss, but he badly wanted to attend Auburn. He is on an academic scholarship.
Rumors that running back Brad Lester will not start Saturday were not entirely hushed Tuesday.
Although Lester is listed as the starter on the team’s depth chart, Tuberville said from now until Saturday “anything could change.”
“To this point, he’s playing. That’s all I know,” Tuberville said.
“We’ll talk about it as we go along, but Brad’s our starter.”
Auburn barred all running backs from speaking with reporters Tuesday.
Lester was suspended for January’s Cotton Bowl because of a violation of team rules, but the running back told reporters during spring practice that he was suspended for academic reasons, which still are unresolved and may keep him out of Saturday’s game.
Tuberville said that he hopes to get a resolution on Lester’s academic standing by Thursday, The Birmingham News reported.
If Lester is ineligible, Ben Tate, Mario Fannin and Carl Stewart will step into his role. Tuberville reiterated Tuesday that his team will play several running backs.
“The running back position is going to be running back by committee again,” he said, “like it has been for years.”
Montez Billings, who was competing to be in the six-receiver rotation, was not listed on the team’s official depth chart that was released Tuesday.
Tuberville said Billings still is recovering from a hamstring injury, calling him “about 90 percent.” Tuberville said the sophomore will not play Saturday but should return next week at full speed.
Billings is the team’s eighth receiver, and Tuberville said Tuesday that each one of the eight receivers may play this season.
In other injuries, guard Leon Hart (ankle) practiced Tuesday but was not full speed. Tuberville said Hart could play Saturday, but “he will learn more tomorrow.” Hart is listed as the backup to starting right guard Mike Berry.
True freshman linebacker Brent Slusher is suffering from a “jammed wrist,” Tuberville said. Still, the coach says Slusher is “scheduled to play.”
Auburn practiced without pads Tuesday and will do the same Wednesday, according to Tuberville.
Wednesday, the team will practice under the lights of Jordan-Hare Stadium, working on new NCAA rule changes and other “organizational stuff,” the coach said.
Daily sports writer
TUSCALOOSA — Starting nose tackle Brian Motley hurt his ankle at practice, according to Kevin Palmer, his former
football coach at Autaugaville High.
Palmer said that he heard through a family member of Motley’s that the former offensive lineman had been injured and that his mother and father were on her way to Tuscaloosa.
Alabama coach Nick
Saban was not available for comment.
A redshirt freshman, Motley was an offensive lineman until spring, when Saban put him on the defensive line. Motley had surgery on his hand last week but was able to practice
and was expected to play against Western Carolina on Saturday.
Even though the Tide has listed West Morgan High graduate Eric Gray as third on the depth chart at left cornerback, he said his role is more than the sheet of paper indicates.
Gray said he is playing in some of Alabama’s nickel and dime defenses and is being used in other situations.
The nickel defense uses five defensive backs, while the dime uses six.
“Yeah, the depth chart is nothing really,” Gray said. “There is nothing really set. There is no telling.”
If not for Alabama’s A-Day crowd, maybe wide receiver Mike McCoy would not have won a starting role for Alabama’s first game.
With Keith Brown suspended, McCoy is listed as a starter alongside top receiver DJ Hall.
“A-Day got my jitters out,
but (Saturday) is going to be a big surprise for me,” McCoy said.
McCoy said that he practices mostly with the first team, but rotates with former Hartselle High standout Nikita Stover.
Daily Sports Writer
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