AUBURN, Ala. — With Cody Parkey and Steven Clark graduating last year, Auburn was tasked with finding replacements at both specialist spots. One half of that equation appears to be solved, as Daniel Carlson has cemented his status as the starting placekicker.
Far more uncertainty exists at punter.
Four players are battling it out — Carlson, Jimmy Hutchinson, Matt Shiel and Tyler Stovall — and the competition will go as long as it needs to, according to Scott Fountain.
And, if need be, the job could be handled by committee.
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"You have to find a guy that either A, can do it all for you — can direct the punts, do sky punts, etc. — or you can do a punt by-committee. Maybe this guy’s good at this, this guy’s good at that, and we’re kind of looking at both avenues," said Fountain, the Tigers' special teams coach. "Naturally, you’d like to have a guy that can just do all that for you to focus on. What we’re going to have to do in the next week or so is just narrow the pool down from 4 to 3 to 2, etc., and then go with our guy."
Hutchinson punted five times in the spring game while Stovall had three attempts. Shiel, a walk-on, was brought in specifically because of his ability to punt "Aussie-style," which, ironically enough, is his native country.
"That’s kind of what he’s done his whole life, so my main thing for our young guys, Daniel and Jimmy and Tyler, we want them to be good at just punting," Fountain said. "We want them to be good at the sky punt. You can be a good sky punter and not an Aussie, but if you can Aussie, that’s an added value, a chance to get it to sit where it lands or bounce back. That’s important, but first and foremost, it’s got to be a consistent punter with hang time that matches the distance.”