The Five I'm Watching: Part III
- Age: 22
- Class: Senior (two seasons of eligibility remaining)
- Size: 6-foot-5, approximately 300 pounds
- Previous role: Third guy in a two-tackle system, 2009
- Theme song: ``Stand," R.E.M.
- Relevant lyric: "Think about direction. Wonder why you haven't before."
THE GOOD: Nick Fairley is, to me, a totally untapped resource. I watch him play and am reminded of Pat Sims. What does that mean? Big dude, quick feet, light feet, awesome short-range acceleration, tackles that express rage. It's odd considering that both players are generally quiet people. Sims has a more biting wit. Though Fairley managed only a somewhat involved role last season -- he started two games -- the Mobile native was playing with more purpose during the season's final half. He has the capability to be more than a run-stopper; Fairley has the speed and instincts to be a pass-rush asset as well. Nothing in his past suggests that he's an injury liability. Fairley appears to be a rugged guy who can handle the rigors of 40 snaps per game.
THE BAD: If he's so talented, why didn't he shine last season? In his defense, junior college defense can be a pretty chaotic enterprise. Still, it's not like Mike Blanc and Jake Ricks are sure-fire NFL guys. Fairley had a few games -- LSU in particular -- where he was a non-factor. A guy with that kind of talent playing in his 18th college game shouldn't disappear. Though I never heard anyone say conditioning was a problem per se, it was clear that Fairley could be in better condition. More time with Kevin Yoxall, the Tigers' strength and conditioning czar, generally cures those kind of ills. His laid-back nature off the field could be a concern. Will he bring the fire on the field? Perhaps that played a role in Fairley's so-so season in 2009.
THE REALITY: He's my No. 1 breakout candidate ... on either side of the ball. Sure, Cameron Newton has a chance to be a big star. You already know that. So does everyone else in the SEC. Fairley still is under the radar for the most part. I kept seeing shades of Pat Sims last season. I consider that a great development for Auburn's defense, which needs all the good news it can get. I project 40 tackles, 5 sacks, hype building through the fall. Of course, I predicted Tommy Trott would flourish under Tony Franklin's leadership. You might want to take that into account.
What do you think? Speak your mind!
Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University
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