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Auburn's kick coverage to be tested again

10/15/2009



Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

For the second straight week, Auburn’s shaky kickoff coverage unit will have its hands full.

Arkansas’ Dennis Johnson burned Auburn with a 70-yard return last week that changed the complexion of that game after the Tigers had rallied to make it a game again. Johnson is the SEC’s top kickoff return specialist.

But right behind him is Kentucky’s Derrick Locke, who’s averaging 32.1 yards and has already returned one 100 yards for a touchdown this season.

Nobody needs to remind Auburn coach Gene Chizik that the Tigers are ranked 106th nationally in kickoff coverage.

"It's not even necessarily guys taking care of their responsibilities. They've done that," Chizik said. "We've got to tackle better. We had a 70-yard return on us last week, and we had three or four guys in position to make a tackle ... and we were 0-for-4. We're getting them in position. We've just got to bring these guys down. And that's been our Achilles' heel at this point."

Chizik suggested that Locke might even be more difficult than Johnson to deal with.

"He brings another element to the table, because not only does he have a lot of speed, he's got great balance," Chizik said. "He's really hard to tackle one-on-one, and when he gets some momentum going down the field, we've got issues. So we've got to really shore up our kickoff return game and not necessarily kick straight to him. We've got to do some things right now to equalize that game, because right now they're really good at it."