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Auburn Position Preview: Special Teams

We discuss the standings of Auburn's special teams after losing pretty much everyone.

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Key Losses:

Cody Parkey, Steven Clark, Chris Davis, Tre Mason, Ryan White, and a partridge in a pear tree

Key Returnees:

Corey Grant, Quan Bray


Daniel Carlson, Stephen Roberts, Roc Thomas

Causes for optimism:

The kicking game: If there's one thing Auburn has done well over the past few years, it's go out and find the best kicker they can and give him a scholarship. It's helped with the transitions as far back as I can think of to the point that I think our FG kicker has been the same person since Damon Duval left. Daniel Carlson was highly recruited for a kicker. In the A-Day game he hit a FG from 50 yards, but also missed an extra point. I think he'll do just fine, though. He's also going to be the first Auburn kicker since Duval to be the place kicker and punter. He'll have rather large shoes to fill in both roles, as Steven Clark was one of the most clutch punters I have seen in my life. His ability to place the ball inside the 20 (or 10, or 5) was a huge part of Auburn's success last season. His combination of hang-time and ability to coffin corner the ball with backspin Jason Dufner would be proud of was unparalleled. Jonathon Wallace will be the holder, replacing Ryan White, so given his skills at QB it's possible we could see a few more swinging gate plays. If Gus pulls one off against Arkansas in the first game of the season it may be one of the greatest things ever.

The return game: Corey Grant is back to return kicks. In the works to join him appear to be Ricardo Louis, Rudy Ford, and possibly Roc Thomas. All are individuals with great break away speed and elusiveness. This should be a good group. The punt return game is a bit different. Quan Bray, Rudy Ford, Jonathon Mincy, Marcus Davis, and Stephen Roberts are names listed as possibilities to return punts. I only have one real requirement for a punt returner, personally: CATCH THE BALL. Auburn has had some punt returners over the past few years who have given me fits every time the ball reaches them because they've had a case of the drops. I would love to have someone like Chris Davis back there who can take it to the house and shift field position, but the first priority is the ability to look the ball in and catch it when you're about to get hit. I really debated on putting this in "optimism" or "concern" because I don't have the first clue how any of these guys have looked fielding the ball. None of them have really done it in public for us to know where Auburn stands here.

Causes for concern:

Kicking: We just replaced an awesome FG kicker and one of the best punters I've ever seen. Carlson may be the bees' knees, but until we've seen it on the field, you have to be concerned about the drop off from last year's kicking unit. Those guys were awesome. I have a feeling there will be some growing pains, but hopefully the offense is potent enough that they won't affect us.

Return Game: Have I mentioned we're going to have someone new back returning punts? This will terrify me until a few games into the season when whomever wins the job has caught everything kicked in his direction.

Next up: Offensive Line