It’s unusual for a coach to admit he’s hoping a certain player wins a position battle, but that’s exactly what Auburn’s Gus Malzahn did at SEC Media Days Thursday.
Malzahn said the team’s punter position is the biggest question mark going into the fall. Kicker Daniel Carlson is in the midst of a battle with rising sophomore Ian Shannon to replace Kevin Phillips, who averaged 42.3 yards per punt his senior season.
When it comes to who gets the nod, Malzahn explained he prefers it be Shannon.
“Ian and Daniel will battle that thing out,” Malzahn said. “I think common sense says you want Ian to win the job and just let Daniel focus on kickoffs and field-goal kicking.”
Malzahn said adding a junior college transfer is not off the table, only that the focus is on Carlson and Shannon right now.
Shannon was the only Auburn player besides Phillips who punted in 2016. The Marietta, Ga., native had three punts and an average of 30.7 yards per punt in his freshman season.
Carlson, meanwhile, was the Tigers’ primary punter in 2014. The then-freshman recorded 41 punts for an average of 42.05 yards per punt.
Malzahn would prefer to leave Carlson to concentrate on field goals and kickoffs. The head coach, however, did joke that maybe special teams isn’t the only place the Tigers could use the senior.
“Daniel’s a pretty good athlete. We may put him at wide receiver some,” Malzahn said. “He ran pretty good on that touchdown [on a fake field goal against Arkansas State].”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports