Last week, when the Lou Groza Award went to Arizona State kicker Zane Gonzalez, runner-up Daniel Carlson all but confirmed his return for a senior season.
He fired off a “3rd time is the charm?” tweet. His charming post-ceremony comments offered praise to Gonzalez, but also indicated his desire to achieve more on the Plains, rather than immediately pursue his inevitable NFL career.
Rare for a kicker, the Auburn world expressed a collective sigh of relief. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn saved his standard “BOOM!”, but you know he shared that sentiment privately.
Perhaps nobody cherished the news more than Carlson’s future backup (most likely, of course). Anders Carlson, Daniel’s younger brother, will join the Auburn football team this summer.
The Carlson brothers — Anders in particular — are eager for the experience.
“I didn’t want to have a bias because I wanted whatever was best for Daniel. If that was the NFL, then I’d want him to go there and do well. It worked out where he got to come back another year,” Anders said. “It should be a pretty special year. I’ll be working under his belt, but I’ll be working hard and pushing him every day just the way he will for me.”
Anders won’t begin his Auburn career until the summer, and he has plenty on his platter between now and then.
He’ll head to Orlando for the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 1 where he’ll serve as the only kicker for Team Highlight. Daniel enjoyed a similar experience four offseasons ago when he participated in the U.S. Army Bowl.
“He always says to just enjoy it. It’s an all-star game, so it’s important to make every kick and be focused every time,” Anders said, “but there’s a lot of seriousness when it comes to an actual season, so enjoy all the things that come with the all-star game.”
Anders is ready for those high-pressure moments at Auburn, however.
It’s a question regularly floated: Is Anders better than Daniel? Is he at least as good as him? Did he only get the offer because he’s Daniel’s brother?
Believe me, Anders has heard it all. And he embraces that. But he’s forging his own path as an Auburn Tiger — something Daniel encouraged throughout the recruiting process despite giving Auburn rave reviews.
Now the two will be teammates, and Anders undoubtedly will have to live somewhat in the shadows of his star older brother. But here’s something even crazier: Anders’ ceiling might be higher.
His kicking coach Chris Coughlin said it’s possible. Anders himself acknowledged his current trajectory is further along than Daniel’s was at this point in his career.
“Physically, I might be a little more physically prepared than Daniel was. He started kicking later than I did,” Anders said.
Anders’ numbers in his senior year aren’t flashy. He made all 49 of his extra-point attempts, but only 13-0f-23 of his field goal tries. The field goal stat needs to be put in perspective, however, because 7 of those misses came from 55-plus yards — a distance Daniel hasn’t even attempted regularly at Auburn.
On kickoffs, Carlson recorded touchbacks on 69 of 79 attempts, and a few of those non-touchbacks were for strategic purposes. But, as Anders said, he’s physically there.
He wants to use the rest of the offseason — and a freshman year under Daniel — to enhance the mind game.
“The biggest thing is probably the mental game,” Anders said. “Just that transition from Colorado high school football to SEC football. Just getting ready for making a kick against a big team, or in the Iron Bowl. I just need to be ready for that.”
Anders likely will be Daniel’s biggest fan for his third stab at the Groza Award. Talking about this year’s award, Anders — a student of his game, like his brother — acknowledged Gonzalez probably deserved the award because of some of his long-distance makes. He cited it as a “close competition … but no, it’s not bogus or anything.”
Maybe a senior year for Daniel will help secure the coveted trophy.
Unless Auburn’s incoming freshman steals his job?
“Uh, I’m going to do the best I can. But I think he’s in a good spot right now,” Anders said with a laugh.
My take: Wesley McGriff effect
On Thursday night, multiple media outlets began confirming reports that Auburn secondary coach Wesley McGriff was accepting a position at Ole Miss to be defensive coordinator. His replacement hasn’t been named yet, but I assume the move will come swiftly.
Recruiting will count on it.
I touched base with Auburn’s four defensive backs commits at this time. Here where their abridged responses:
- 4-star CB Malcolm Askew: “120 percent committed.”
- 3-star safety Jordyn Peters: “At this point, still solidly committed.”
- 3-star CB Traivon Leonard: “I am still 100 percent committed.”
- 3-star safety Carlito Gonzalez: “I might have to re-open it.”
That last one raises the most concern, of course.
The other three, I don’t think you don’t have to worry about. Peters might be the exception if a new defensive backs coach comes in and wants his own guy. Askew is an early enrollee, and he sent in his paperwork Thursday. Leonard is the most recent secondary addition, and he seems safe despite McGriff being the primary reason he’s on board.
It’ll be interesting to see how the new coach perceives the underrated prospects on board and if that will change things.
Gonzalez has been through this before. Last offseason, his primary recruiters Dameyune Craig, Will Muschamp and Travaris Robinson all took jobs elsewhere in the SEC. South Carolina is a team to watch here for Gonzalez, but he said he’ll try to be “patient” as the Tigers explore a replacement coach.
He has been contacted by Auburn and is encouraged by what they’re telling him. Still, it’s something to watch closely.
As for targets — Brad Stewart, Tray Bishop and Devon Hunter — it’s going to be tough at this point.
Auburn still likely will want another defensive back, but the pickings might be slim this late in the game. Bishop is trending away from Auburn more rapidly by the day. Hunter was a McGriff guy, through and through. Stewart, from New Orleans, released his top 6 shortly after the news with Auburn excluded.
Weekly Facebook Live chat
I had my weekly recruiting chat Thursday night. If you missed it, check it out below. Also, if you missed it, do yourself a favor and don’t miss it next week.
You get a pass this time.
Here are some of the topics covered in the video.
- Jarrett Stidham signing
- Salvatore Cannella commitment
- Recruiting misses of the week
- Wesley McGriff’s departure
- Tray Bishop’s de-commitment