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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Early notes: Fairley ready for encore performance

Of the big plays in Nick Fairley's highlight-filled night at Mississippi State, which was most satisfying -- the sacks, the fumble recovery, the pick?

“The win," he said Tuesday, a day after being named the SEC's Defensive Player of the Week. "Coming out of an SEC game on the road, second game, first SEC game on the road actually, coming out of that with a win was a great feeling.”

Fairley had a monster night in Starkville, with five tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for a loss, a fumble recovery and an interception.

The junior defensive tackle, who joined Auburn last year after spending time at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, said it took a while for him to get accustomed to the SEC, where double teams are a constant.

Coaches, especially defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, wanted to see more consistency out of him in the offeseason.

"I told coach Rock early in the workouts during the summertime, ‘You aren’t going to have to worry about me coming to play every game,'" Fairley said. "I’m going to go out there, do my best, play within the defense and hopefully make a lot of plays for us.”

Even teammates have seen a jump in his improvement.

"What he did Thursday night, he does in practice all the time," center Ryan Pugh said.

As for Rocker, he didn't hesitate to challenge Fairley after the game.

"When he came do me, he said, ‘Great job. Can you do it again?'" Fairley said. "I said, ‘Yes, I can.'"

Some other news and notes from today's early interviews:
  • More Fairley praise from safety Zac Etheridge: "That just shows if Nick, if he goes at it every day, he can't be blocked. If he gives us that week in and week out, we'll have the best D line there is. ... He's a guy that when he do turn it on, he can't be stopped. That's one of the things you got to get Nick to do is just keep going every day."
  • Fairley said Antoine Carter and Mike Blanc liken him to former Auburn DT Pat Sims, who plays for the Cincinnati Bengals. "A couple d-linemen compare me to him all the time," he said. "Before I cut my hair.”
  • Pugh said Fairley has a tendency to jump the snap count in practice. "It's good for us when he's playing somebody else," he said. "Of course, we'll throw a penalty when he's playing us in practice."
  • The coaches aren't the only ones with a high opinion of freshman RB Mike Dyer. "I think the offensive line has full confidence in Michael," Pugh said. "I think he's been out there and showed what he can do. In the fourth quarter on the last drive, that was evident what he could do the last game. Ninety-five yards the first game. I don't think there's anything else you need to go see."
  • Dyer doesn't seem to have any physical obstacles that are holding him back from getting playing time. "Physically, he can do it," Pugh said. "We saw that the first two games. He's tough to tackle. I don't know if anyone has really tackled him yet. I think that he's just kind of run out of bounds or they piled him up. I haven't seen anyone just bring him down or hit him. So I think he's got good awareness when he runs."
  • Clemson has played North Texas and Presbyterian so far, so it's hard to get a gauge on what they do, but Auburn has a good idea of how good the visiting Tigers are. "You can turn on any game from last year and you can turn on the first quarter of this year, and they know how to play," he said.
  • Pugh doesn't think Clemson is too different from an SEC team. "Yeah. Physically, they're talented. They play hard. They're fast. They look just like an SEC team except they're Clemson. There's no difference in their athletes and our athletes. It's going to be who does this better? Who does this better in the end."
  • Which SEC team does Clemson remind him of? "Physically, they look like LSU. They have that type of speed and they're that good on defense. I think it's good to be a part of it."
  • It's been a minute since Auburn played Clemson in the 2007 Chick-fil-A bowl. Or at least it feels it's been a minute. “Yeah, it does seem like a while ago that we played Clemson," said Kodi Burns, who had the game-winning touchdown run in overtime. "The game went the way it did but I’m sure they’ve got some of the same people actually and a lot better now. Some of them were just regular guys. Now, they are All-Americans. It’s definitely a different team coming in here.”
  • Burns and Terrell Zachery threw a pair of good blocks that sprung Emory Blake for a first-quarter touchdown Thursday night, the first of Blake's career. The sophomore rewarded them, although it wasn't with a steak dinner. "We got some pizza," Zachery said.
  • Burns takes pride in his blocking. "It’s kind of ‘want to’ as far as blocking goes," he said. "Obviously, the first two games I wasn’t getting many balls thrown my way. Blocking is a pride thing. After watching film, it’s something I can also improve on. It’s just looking to be aggressive. That’s what football is. It’s my first chance to really get to actually hit somebody without getting hit, so I take pride in it and just want to.”
  • Burns said he wasn't nervous to throw the ball across the width of the field to quarterback Cam Newton in a crucial spot during the fourth quarter. “It’s not nerve-wracking at all because obviously he has confidence in me to make those plays," he said. "I told myself I’m not throwing another interception after the bowl game. It’s obvious that he has confidence in me to make those kinds of plays in crunch time. Actually, the guy read it pretty well but I put the right kind of trajectory to get it over his head and give Cam a chance to make a play.”
  • Zachery said Gene Chizik told the offense it would have to score 40 points to beat MSU. Not so, apparently. "The defense came to us and said, 'Hey, all you have to do is score three points," Zachery said. "We’re going to take care of the rest of it.’ We scored 17, and they took care of the rest."
  • Just like the offensive line has to be aware of Newton's ability to keep plays alive, so do the receivers. "You have to stay alive," Zachery said. "He can scramble around and throw it 80 yards, so you do have to stay alive.The first thing that comes to your mind is just to watch him and see what he’s doing in case he gets in trouble. Then you have to get down field and create some more separation for him."
  • Etheridge went down with what appeared to be an injury near the end of the MSU game, which was cause for concern for Auburn fans, considering his history. It was no big deal. "I just had a cramp when I tried to go up," he said. "Everybody blew it up and thought I was hurt again. I just had a cramp."
  • Etheridge on Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker: "He's very athletic. He can beat you if you let him. We just have to keep him inside the pocket and don't let him get outside and use his legs. On the back end when he decides to throw the ball, we just have to make plays."
  • We'd be remiss if we didn't point out to Etheridge that the defensive line has more interceptions that the secondary at this point. He laughed. "We'll take any turnover we can no matter who get it," he said.
  • ESPN GameDay's set will be on the Campus Green east of Jordan-Hare Stadium, adjacent to the Heisman Drive parking deck. It's the same location as GameDay's visit in 2008. It airs from 9-10 a.m. ET on ESPNU and 10-noon ET on ESPN.


Clint Richardson said...

How do the coaches and players feel about the turnover ratio, being that were -2, I think, I could be wrong.

Andy Bitter said...

I would go with: not pleased. It pains Malzahn to see turnovers and Roof talks about forcing them all the time. But Auburn hasnt' been good at all in that department this year.