Auburn, Ala.--It wasn’t easy, but as expected when he was signed as a bluechip kicking recruit out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Wesley Byrum is scheduled to be the kicker for the Auburn Tigers on opening night.
Byrum received the good news from special teams coach Eddie Gran prior to Sunday’s practice and celebrated with an impressive kicking performance. Byrum will handle kickoffs, field goals and extra points.
To win the job he had to finish ahead of walk-on Graham Sutter, a freshman from Montgomery who had a very accurate preseason, as well as Zach Kutch and Ross Gornall, who have also kicked the ball well in practice.
Commenting on the competition, Bryum says, “It was pretty tough. I honestly believe we have the strongest depth chart for kickers. If you took any of the other teams you wouldn’t find four better kickers down the chart. They are good. I still have good competition at number two. They said Sutter kicks the ball well.”
Gran agrees with Byrum about the competition. “It was just a matter of who had the best percentage,” Gran says. “All of the technique and what they were doing was pretty good. They have really worked on that in the summer. They were all kicking the ball well. It was great competition.
“It was a numbers thing,” Gran adds. “He (Byrum) had the best numbers, then number two had the next best.”
Gran says that is how he made the decision to name Ryan Shoemaker the number one punter ahead of walk-on Patrick Tatum.
Looking at the field goal kickers, Gran says, “Whether it was the right decision, we are probably not going to know until probably after the third or fourth game. It is like any other position. If we are not getting anything, if we are not producing, we will make a change. You have to realize John Vaughn was 6-10 his freshman year so there are going to be some ups and downs this year.”
Byrum says he is already thinking about kicking in the opener on national television vs. Kansas State. “I think about it all of the time. I think about that first day when we come out and walk through the tunnel. It is going to be an experience.”
Byrum handled a pressure situation at Sunday’s practice when he and Sutter both had to make a 46-yard field goal to keep the team from running wind sprints. Both made their kicks. “They didn’t want to run at all,” the kicker says.
“I think I finished two-a-days at 86 percent (on field goals) and it will go up because I was 5-5 today,” Byrum adds.
Byrum says he feels confident in his leg strength kicking 50-yard field goals. Based on practice, he has the leg to kick from farther than that if given a chance. On his kickoffs, he is averaging getting the ball to the goal line or one-yard deep while kicking off from the 30 with a hang-time of around 4.1 seconds.
“Anything above 4.0 is good,” he says. “Around 4.1 to 4.2 is awesome.”