Auburn's Burning Questions: No. 10 - How reliable will the Tigers kicking game be?
Several questions abound as the Auburn Tigers begin their quest to become the first team to repeat as SEC Champions since 1998. Leading up to the first day of fall practice on Aug. 1, Saturday Down South will examine the 10 burning questions the Tigers face in their quest to win back-to-back SEC Championships.
Auburn’s burning questions:
- No. 10: How reliable will the kicking game be?
- No. 9: How will the Tigers handle success/off-the-field issues?
When it comes to the kicking game, much can be taken for granted. Auburn will be missing two of the most reliable yet sometimes unnoticed pieces to their overall success in 2013 – punter Steven Clark and place-kicker Cody Parkey.
Last year Clark was a semi-finalist for the Ray Gay award, given to the nation’s top punter. Clark ranked 38th in the country and fourth in the SEC with a 42.6 yard average. Twenty-six of his 56 punts in 2013 were caught for a fair catch and not one of his punts was blocked. Clark’s ability to consistently flip the field was a valuable asset for the Tigers, limiting opponents from working with a short field.
Jimmy Hutchinson, a 6-foot-2, 198 pound redshirt freshman from Marietta, Georgia, will try to fill Clark’s shoes at punter. Hutchinson was second team all-state at Harrison High School, averaging 39.2 yards per punt. He averaged 40 yards a punt during the A-Day game with a long of 46 yards. Kohl’s Kicking Academy ranked Hutchinson the nation’s top punter in his class.
What the Tigers will miss from Parkey is his consistency on long-range field goals. Parkey was an eye-opening 5-for-6 from 40-plus yards in 2013 and made a 52-yarder in the SEC Championship game. His ability to make field goals at critical times though might have been Parkey’s greatest asset. Parkey’s 47-yard field brought Auburn within three points of Mississippi State in the third quarter on their way to a last minute victory. Against Georgia, Auburn needed every point it posted. After missing a 36-yard field goal, Parkey responded with a make, a 32-yarder in the fourth quarter. A second consecutive miss by Parkey and there is no Pray at Jordan-Hare.
Parkey’s replacement is another redshirt freshman, Daniel Carlson. The Colorado Springs native isn’t your average place-kicker in terms of size. Carlson is 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and has a big leg to go with his big size. The Denver Post named Carlson the No. 6 prospect in Colorado and was an all-state selection as a junior and senior. ESPN ranked him as the top kicker in his class.
Carlson displayed his talent during the A-Day. He was named the special teams MVP connecting on a 50-yard field. Carlson also made a 27-yarder while hitting 5-of-6 extra point attempts.
Both redshirt freshmen have the ability to step in and fill the void left by Clark and Parkey. The true test will come in game situations though. Both need to be consistent. How reliable Hutchinson and Carlson are will be a major factor in the Auburn’s success in 2014. Their performance could be the difference between wins and losses.