By Dennis Washington
SCOTTSDALE, AZ (WBRC) - Oregon knows the road to the BCS National Championship goes through Nick Fairley.
"The guy is awesome," says Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. "He is outstanding."
The Auburn defensive tackle was the topic of conversation Thursday during Oregon's news conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, both for his abilities and his reputation as an intense, or by some accounts, dirty player. Helfrich admitted he is losing sleep over how to control Fairley.
"We haven't played anybody like him," Helfrich said. "He's physical in terms of speed, strength, technique… all the things that you don't want to see as an offensive guy, he's got."
Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas says Fairley is quick, but not any faster or better than Oregon's defense.
"He is a big guy," Thomas said Thursday. "Everybody has seen him. He is a good guy. Quicker than most people think he is. I know he is similar to the guys on our team. We have a quicker D line. He is a good guy."
Thomas says accusations that Fairley is a dirty player are valid.
"Yeah, we seen he has a lot of dirty plays throwing people around after the plays," Thomas said. "That's just football."
Fairley was criticized by some people after his intense tackles of Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and Georgia's Aaron Murray knocked both men out of their games. Fairley said Thursday he's just trying to make plays for his team.
"If it's me playing dirty, if that's what they call it, that's what it is," Fairley said.
Oregon plays Auburn Monday night at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The game begins at 7:30 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on ESPN.
Copyright 2011 WBRC. All rights reserved.