AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn held its second scrimmage of fall camp on Tuesday, running approximately 50 plays in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The focus for the offense was on third-and-long and pass protection, while the defense worked on pass rushing.
But special teams received the majority of the coaching staff's attention.
"Really quite a few live reps on special teams," coach Gus Malzahn said. "It was really good work and we gained a lot of valuable information, and after we watch the film, we'll be able to evaluate off of, I think will go a long way in our special teams. We gave our punters a good opportunity, our kickers a good opportunity, our holders and snappers, returns, and everything that goes with that."
Malzahn said all four players vying for the vacant punter job — Jimmy Hutchinson, Daniel Carlson, Tyler Stovall and Matt Shiel — got their fare share of reps Tuesday. It was treated like a real game, as punts were allowed to be blocked.
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Malzahn believes that with "live bodies coming" at the quartet, it will help the coaching staff better determine who deserves to be the starter.
"Some people react in a good way. Some people react in not-so-good way," he said. "It's just feeling that real pressure of having people around, that's close to being blocked and everything that goes with that."
And watching the punters was far from the staff's only objective.
"Who can block for the punt? Who can cover and make a tackle? Who can return one?," Malzahn asked.
When it comes to returners, the Tigers have had a large number of players get a chance during practice, including Jonathon Mincy, Jermaine Whitehead, Robenson Therezie, Ricardo Louis, Quan Bray, Marcus Davis and Gray King. Tuesday marked the first time returners were open to contact.
"There’s been guys around them and thud, but today was live and showing what they can do. Just from a naked eye not watching film, I thought it’s going to be good for us to see that," Malzahn said. "I think some people will separate themselves, which they need to. It’s about time we start figuring out who our first guys is going to be out there in the first game."
While the coach declined to talk about specific players, he admitted that there's always more of "comfort level with guys" that already have experience returning punts.
On the other hand, if a talented youngster is the most dangerous option, he'll be the one taking the field.
"We’re going to play the best," Malzahn said. "A guy, if he’s a young guy, he needs to just prove it. As a coach you just try to put your young guys in as many game-type situations as possible for the first game, especially the fact that we’re playing an SEC team."