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Good time to Guess

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Good time to Guess

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Times Sports Staff pmarsh9485@msn.com

Five years into his Auburn career, Hewitt product finally a starter

AUBURN - For fifth-year Auburn senior receiver Lee Guess, the wait has been long. But it's been anything but painful.

While waiting his turn to become a significant factor at wide receiver, Guess passed the time by earning a business degree in just three years. He's on track to finish work on his MBA next spring.

"I don't know how to look it up," Guess said, "but I don't know if there's been a collegiate athlete, at least not a football player, who has graduated and gotten a master's degree in five years. That's something I'm proud of. I think it's a good accomplishment."

As Brandon Cox's favorite target at Hewitt-Trussville High School, Guess broke a state record with 93 receptions as a senior. But he arrived at Auburn with a star-studded class of receivers that included Ben Obomanu, Devin Aromashodu, Courtney Taylor and Anthony Mix.

He knew from the start that he would have to wait for his chance.

"I wanted to redshirt my first year, and I knew I wasn't going to get a lot of playing time my second year," Guess said. "That actually helped me get going on my studies. I feel lazy when I don't do a lot. When I don't have to do a lot of football, I focus on school and getting that done."

Along the way, Guess, 5-foot-10 and 181 pounds, cherished the opportunities he got. As a backup to Anthony Mix at slot receiver, he caught four passes in 2004 and three in 2005, including his first touchdown.

"It was kind of hard to get many reps with Anthony Mix in front of me," Guess said. "We were blessed to have all those receivers. I just wanted to get enough reps so I'd be ready my senior year."

He did, and he was.

Guess who?He's a starter

Guess has earned the starting slot receiver's job ahead of sophomore Robert Dunn. For the first time since high school, he and Cox, roommates and best friends since childhood, will be in the starting lineup together.

"We're like long lost brothers or something," Guess said. "My dad was wondering the other day how many balls we'd actually caught and thrown growing up together.

"It'll be fun to be back on the field together. We think alike. He always knows where I'll be. Whenever he is scrambling, I'll be in his eyes."

Cox, a fourth-year junior, says he has waited for the opportunity to hook up once again with his long-time friend and teammate.

"It's going to be kind of like high school days," Cox said. "He's been fighting the whole time, and it's finally paying off. He's going to get a chance to prove his ability, and he'll do it."

As far as wide receivers coach Greg Knox is concerned, Guess has already proved what he can do. He'll finally get a chance to do it full-time when No. 4 Auburn opens its season Saturday against Washington State at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"He's a guy who has really stepped to the forefront and had a great camp," Knox said. "He's a smart player. He knows how to find windows, knows how to create separation and get himself open, all of the things that are important to a receiver. On top of that, he's going to catch the ball when he gets his hands on it."

Guess says he won't focus on how many passes come his way or even how many snaps he plays.

"It's great I'll get a chance to start, but it all comes down to whether we win or not," Guess said. "That's all that matters to me."

Tate, Fannin to play: Eddie Gran, Auburn's running backs and special teams coach, said Friday he expects true freshmen Ben Tate to play in next Saturday's season opener against Washington State at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Tate will be a reserve tailback after working at both tailback and fullback for much of preseason practice. Mario Fannin moved from wide receiver to running back earlier this week. Though it's uncertain whether either will see action on offense, both are starters on some special teams, Gran said.

Taking a break: After a spirited two-hour practice Friday, Auburn players will get a welcome break today.

"They had a lot of life knowing they have the next two nights off," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. It was the first time I've seen some of them smile in about a month. They deserve it and the coaches deserve it. We'll come back Sunday and start getting after it."

Starting with Washington State, the Tigers will play 12 consecutive games without an open date.

Lee makes move: Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said junior cornerback Patrick Lee has been so impressive that he now considers him on the same level as returning starters David Irons and Jonathan Wilhite.

Irons, Wilhite and Lee, Muschamp said, "are all starters at cornerback."

"I'll rotate guys I have confidence in playing," Muschamp said. "Right now, I have confidence in all three of those guys playing and being productive."

Rose arrives: Freshman wide receiver Alex Rose of Tallahassee has arrived on campus. Tuberville said the NCAA eligibility clearinghouse ruled him a partial qualifier, meaning he can practice but can't play this season. He will have three years of eligibility unless he graduates in four years.

Tuberville said Rose will begin practice Sunday.

Two down: Linebacker Steve Gandy and offensive tackle Oscar Gonzalez are the only two players expected to miss the opener because of injury. :thumbsup:

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