Scouting report: Kenny Irons
On with the business at hand.
Tailback Kenny Irons has been picking up some (deserving) all-conference honors during the past few weeks, so I thought this would be a good chance to examine Auburn's top tailback.
I'll admit my biases up front. I like the Irons family, and I love how Kenny has worked his way up the ladder. He wore the 41 jersey when he arrived a few years ago. I thought that was a cool number for a tailback, but he wears 23 now. Oh well. What do I know?
KENNY IRONS, TB (No. 23)
5-11, 200, Senior
The basics: He signed with South Carolina out of high school in 2002 because he didn't want to play with brother David at Auburn. The two had been together their entire lives, and Kenny felt like it was time for a break. Irons played decently as a freshman in 2002. He was bumped down the depth chart in '03 with the arrival of state high-school star Demetris Summers. Irons transferred to Auburn in January '04 and spent that season on the scout team. He earned one carry in the season-opening loss to Georgia Tech. His role was minimal until the Arkansas game. Top tailback Brad Lester injured his groin early on, and Irons finished with 182 yards on 33 carries that day. Irons soon became the SEC's most consistent back. He finished as the SEC's leading rusher with 1,337 yards. Irons scored 13 touchdowns.
2006 outlook: Irons comes into the season as Auburn's top tailback, though Lester isn't exactly an afterthought. They are different kinds of backs. Irons is a bruiser with a speedster body -- something like Carnell Williams. Irons isn't elusive like Carnell; he isn't the instinctive receiver Ronnie Brown was. Lester, by comparison, is much faster side-to-side and somewhat faster downfield. The knock on Irons is his blocking. Backs coach Eddie Gran demands that his runners be vigilant blockers. Irons doesn't fit that mold at all times. He has pledged to be more aggressive with his blocking this season. Irons rarely fumbles and has been very durable -- two traits Gran values highly. Irons also is a highly enthusiastic person. He's a plus on the field because his teammates feed off the spastic behavior. Irons is an unorthodox franchise back because he doesn't have great speed, but he has enough. He's an ideal fit for Auburn's grinding ground game.
Summary: Irons will be a darling at Media Days in July. He's a high-profile guy now, and his personality suits the spotlight. Irons is a beguiling player in a sense. He'll have a string of 10 carries where he accomplishes little, then he'll break off a 20-yard gain. He's a volume runner. He needs at least 25 carries to be effective in an overall sense. Auburn seems committed to doing that. However, that lack of home-run speed could sag his professional value. I thought the same about Rudi Johnson, though, and look what happened to him. As Gran once said: "Kenny Irons is not Rudi Johnson." Is that a positive or a negative? We'll find out this fall.
Technique: 50 (blocking issues)
Football aptitude: 60
AS A SCHEDULE NOTE: I'm trying to talk with DC Will Muschamp for a Q-and-A interview that will run in Sunday's print and online editions. Keep an eye out for that.