SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cam Newton is Auburn’s best player and highest profile player.
Nick Fairley is Auburn’s best defensive player and the Tigers’ most dominant player physically.
Josh Bynes is one of the Tigers’ most selfless players, and in his own way, the player who’s been at the center of putting this dream season together.
A senior middle linebacker, Bynes is the unquestioned leader on this team. He’s vocal. He’s demanding. He’s productive. He’s smart, and he’s the guy everybody on this team feels comfortable going to if there’s a problem.
Simply, he’s the kind of player every team needs if it’s going to win a championship.
“We knew back in the spring that we had the makings of something special. Really, you got that feeling back in the offseason with how committed everybody was to this team,” said Bynes, who’s led Auburn in tackles the past two seasons.
“My role was to make sure all the pieces came together.”
Over and over again this week, Bynes has been quizzed by the media about other players on Auburn’s team. He’s been the go-to guy when somebody wanted to know more about Newton or Fairley or anybody else on the team.
It’s a tribute to Bynes because he has such a keen feel for this team and for the players on this team.
But his teammates are quick to point out that Bynes’ iron-clad leadership is one of the chief reasons the Tigers will play Monday night in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.
The chemistry on this team has been outstanding all season long, and Bynes is a big reason why.
“There are a lot of things, some might call them little things, that he does for this team that people outside the team wouldn’t know about,” said Craig Stevens, Bynes’ fellow senior linebacker. “But they’re the things that add up to being where we are now. He’s always going to have your back out there on defense, and we’re going to have his back.”
As the Tigers’ play-caller on defense, Bynes faces what will be one of his greatest challenges on Monday against an Oregon offense that runs plays at warp speed.
There are times when the Ducks don’t go 15 seconds before getting off the next play.
That’s not much time for Bynes to make his normal checks and get everybody lined up correctly.
The key, he says, is staying cool.
“We know our assignments. We’ve repped them over and over again,” Bynes said. “We’re going to have time. We just have to trust in our preparation and trust in each other.”
It’s a trust that Bynes has demanded from this team and a trust that has worked beautifully for the Tigers for 13 games.
Now, they’re down to one game, the most important game they’ll play all season.