HOOVER, Ala. — Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson could make college football history this season.
If the senior from Colorado makes the cut as a finalist for the Lou Groza Award — given annually to the top kicker in the country — he’ll be the first to do it three times. And after narrowly missing the honor in back-to-back seasons, Carlson is the favorite to take it home in 2017.
But according to Carlson, his dream final season with Auburn football doesn’t have to include a Groza.
“I would love to kick 10,000 extra points this season and no field goals,” Carlson said with a laugh last Thursday at SEC Media Days.
While Auburn’s offense scoring 60,000 points worth of touchdowns in 2017 might be a stretch, Carlson has a higher goal than the biggest one a college kicker can receive.
He wants to finish the season with an SEC championship, a goal that coach Gus Malzahn and all of Auburn’s player representatives spoke extensively about at Media Days.
Carlson was on the last Auburn team to take that title. He redshirted on the 2013 team behind Cody Parkey, who is now kicking in the NFL. Although he wasn’t an active member on that squad, Carlson knows what it took for the Tigers to get there.
“I think that we do have a special team this year,” Carlson said. “This is my fifth year, and I was here during 2013, and it feels special and similar to that year. We’re all working hard and this team is really coming together. All of the talent and all of the pieces of the puzzle that need to come together, we have a shot at a really special year.”
If getting back to Atlanta means Carlson has to kick more PATs and fewer clutch 3-pointers he’s been known for in his record-breaking career, then he’s fine with it.
“I just need to do my job once I’m called out there,” Carlson said. “Hopefully, it’s a lot of extra points. When we do have those field goals and when they’re needed, I just want to make sure I’m doing my job.”
Even if the wish of Carlson — and the rest of the Auburn roster — comes true with the additions of quarterback Jarrett Stidham and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, Carlson still will have a great shot at the Groza.
The senior hasn’t missed a single extra-point attempt and has hit 83.1 percent of his field goal tries as a Tiger. He’s also a school-record 8 for 12 from 50-plus yards in his career. That combination of elite power and consistent accuracy makes Carlson a threat on any offense.
“I really feel like he’s one of the biggest weapons in all of college football,” Malzahn said Thursday. “Not just the field goals and the range and all that, but the kickoffs. He all but eliminates the kickoff return.”
Carlson said he wants to “solidify” Malzahn’s belief that he’s the best kicker in the country. That may or may not include a Groza at the end of the season, something Carlson said would be “fun.”
But Auburn’s best shot at an individual award or a first-team All-America nod has a different view of those honors. He has a bigger and sweeter goal in mind — a team championship.
“At the end of the day, those awards and stuff, those are cherries on top,” Carlson said.