Auburn opens camp Wednesday from a position of strength on special teams.
The Tigers bring back nearly every special teams starter from a group that was the team’s most consistent last season. The lone exception is Blake Countess, one half of the starting kick return unit.
Special teams coach Scott Fountain should have little trouble filling that spot considering the number of talented athletes on the roster.
Auburn’s team speed should also open up competition for punt returns. Returning starter Marcus Davis wants the role, but he will to have to fend off speedsters like Javarius Davis. The defensive back ran an electronically-timed 4.18 40-yard dash this offseason. Davis along with Ryan Davis, Stephen Roberts and Kyle Davis all took punt return reps during the spring.
The long list of capable returners drew a brief mention at SEC Media Days where coach Gus Malzahn touted the group’s depth.
Malzahn also took some time at the conference’s annual preview event to praise the Auburn’s returning special teams MVP Daniel Carlson.
“I think he's one of the best kickers in all of college football,” Malzahn said. “He's not just a weapon, field goals and extra points, but he's a weapon on kick-offs which is very critical, as far as that goes.”
Carlson picked up two preseason honors in July making the media’s preseason All-SEC first team and watch list for the Lou Groza award. Carlson was one of three finalists for the award handed out to college football’s top place kicker last year.
While the Colorado native has the chance to break or extend team records he set last season, his main goal is eliminating costly mental mistakes. Carlson still stresses over a pair of short missed field goals (26-yarder against Mississippi State, 25-yarder against San Jose State) from the last season.
One special teams player who shouldn’t go overlooked is holder Tyler Stovall. Carlson credits his teammate for helping the placekicker become one of the best in all of college football.
“We’ve got that chemistry down to where if I’m missing a kick, he can tell what I’m doing wrong,” Carlson said during the spring. “He’s another pair of eyes that keeps me accountable and working hard.”