Sept. 15, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Nick Fairley finally had enough of getting pushed around after he was knocked straight backward by two Mississippi offensive linemen last season.
"I got a bigtime double team, and they threw me back like 5 yards," No. 16 Auburn's defensive tackle said. "Then I was like, 'I can't get keep putting this on tape.' So I went in there and I just stepped it up."
Fairley appears to have retained that mentality this season for the Tigers (2-0). He spent much of the game at Mississippi State last Thursday night in the offense's backfield, recovering a fumble and getting a sack and an interception.
The performance earned him Southeastern Conference defensive player of the week honors ahead of Saturday night's visit from Clemson (2-0).
What did it earn him from the coaches? A challenge to keep it up. Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker asked him if he could do it again.
"I told him, 'Yes, I can.'"
But can he do it again? After all, Fairley had multiple tackles in only six of 13 games last season.
Coach Gene Chizik says that when Fairley wants to play aggressive, downhill football, he can be a force on Auburn's defense.
"We've got to get him to do it all the time, every play. You can see that when he decides to do that, he's a really, really good football player," Chizik said.
The 6-foot-5, 298-pounder showed signs of that potential last season after arriving from junior college as a redshirt sophomore, especially after that Ole Miss game.
He had 11 solo tackles and 1.5 sacks -- his only ones during the season -- over the last three games against Georgia, Alabama and Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. Fairley's only starts came in the first and last games of the season.
Against Mississippi State, he spearheaded a defense that allowed just 246 yards, the lowest total allowed by the Tigers since giving up 245 to Louisiana Tech in last season's opener.
Fairley led the charge with three quarterback hurries.
"That becomes a huge part of our defense when any defensive lineman plays like that," Chizik said. "That's trying to play on the other side of the line of scrimmage."
Fairley and Auburn end Antoine Carter are part of a four-way tie for second in the SEC with three sacks, behind the 3.5 sacks from LSU's Drake Nevis.
"He obviously will demand a lot of attention, but they're all pretty active over there," Clemson center Dalton Freeman said. "They all play with great skill and will be the most athletic team we've faced so far."