AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn football’s Daniel Carlson just missed out on a major national award last season. On Thursday, the elite kicker became one step closer to getting back to the final ceremony.
The Lou Groza Award, given to the nation’s top college football kicker each year, announced 20 semifinalists Thursday. Carlson, who was one of three finalists last year for the award, made the cut.
“Daniel Carlson is the best kicker in the country,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said last Saturday. “He’s made some clutch kicks.”
Carlson has hit 17 of his 18 field goal attempts this season, including a combined 10 in close SEC West wins over LSU and Ole Miss. The junior is perfect on extra-point attempts and leads the nation in touchback percentage — 44 of his 49 kickoffs so far in 2016 haven’t been returned.
“Kickoffs, they want me to kick touchbacks for the most part, but there’s times when they’re going to bring it out,” Carlson said Tuesday. “That’s where we have a great coverage unit. I’m just trying to help that unit out too as much as I can and hopefully make their job a little easier.”
He has the second-best field goal percentage of any college football kicker with at least 15 attempts this season, trailing only Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez. Carlson is 7 of 9 for his career in field-goal attempts of 50-plus yards.
“Having a holder and snapper that do their job consistently at a high level too really helps me continue to push myself,” Carlson said. “Just taking on a big responsibility and I guess treating it as such. I’ve really focused hard on executing every kick I’m able to do.”
The Lou Groza Award will selects its finalists on Nov. 22. The winner will be announced on ESPN on Dec. 8 during the Home Depot College Football Awards Show.
Carlson made the final three last year with winner Ka’imi Fairbairn of UCLA and Memphis’ Jake Elliott. Eight of the 20 semifinalists, including Carlson, are multi-time semifinalists for the award.
Auburn has never had a kicker win the Lou Groza Award, which was founded in 1992.