4. Daniel Carlson
Year: Redshirt junior
Why he’s here: The Tigers couldn’t have turned their season around, finished 8-4 or earned a trip to the Sugar Bowl without two-time Lou Groza finalist Daniel Carlson.
After going 1-2 through the first three games of the season, the junior kicker scored all of Auburn’s points in a thrilling 18-13 win over LSU. The victory was perhaps Auburn’s biggest win of the season and the spark which led to a six-game win streak.
“Daniel is the best kicker in college football. I think he confirmed that tonight,” coach Gus Malzahn said after Auburn’s win over LSU. “He had a 51-yard field goal, and he had some pressure kicks in the fourth quarter. Those are the hardest ones, I don’t care how far it is. He also kicked every kickoff in the end zone. We were worried about their returners. He is a huge weapon and he came through tonight.”
Carlson continued to come through in the clutch, adding in a perfectly executed trick play against Arkansas State and laying a big hit later in the season (just for good measure, of course).
Though he would miss out on the Lou Groza Award given to the nation’s best place kicker for the second-straight year, Carlson still made 26-of-30 field goal attempts (86.7 percent) and drilled all 43 of his extra points.
Perhaps more importantly, Carlson was a force on kickoffs and put opponents in a tough starting place while recording 54 of 68 touchbacks (79.41 percent).
The Colorado native kept Auburn in close games and even gave the outmatched and outmanned Tigers a chance against No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa (Carlson again scored all of his team’s 12 points).
Here are some of the honors Carlson received throughout the season:
- Lou Groza Award finalist
- Pro Football Focus second team All-American
- Second-team AP All-American
- 1st team All-SEC
- Auburn Special Teams MVP
- SEC Special Teams player of the year
- SEC Special Teams player the week
The peace of mind Carlson gave the Tigers didn’t show up on the stat sheet, but was of the utmost importance.
Throughout the season, several players — from quarterback Sean White and running back Kerryon Johnson, to defensive tackle Montravius Adams — voiced the confidence they felt on both sides of the ball knowing they had “Legatron” in their arsenal.
“He’s a game-changer. He’s a weapon. You’ve got confidence to let him kick it 50-plus,” Malzahn said. “There’s not a whole lot of coaches that have that luxury. He’s a guy that’s kicking just about every one in the end zone. The stress of covering kicks – we played three top-20 teams who all had great returners back there – he’s kicking the thing in the end zone and hitting people. Don’t try to catch his kicks. ”
Season stats: Field goals, extra points
What’s next in 2017?
One of the best kickers in the country will be back on the Plains. And while little will change for Carlson (he’ll be the same scoring threat) he will take on a new role.
Carlson will welcome his younger brother Anders Carlson to the Plains and will have to be his shining example to help him prepare for his own athletic career.
There’s little doubt Carlson will leave Auburn as the most successful kicker in program history.
And who knows, maybe if Carlson’s stats are perfect (which isn’t out of the question), the Auburn coaching staff will let him try a different position for a few plays.
— WarEagle Productions (@AuburnVideo) November 23, 2016
Don't you know I'm the 8th string linebacker? https://t.co/0YHteZORhU
— Daniel Carlson (@DanielCarlson38) November 24, 2016
Top 10 Auburn football players
No. 10: DE Marlon Davidson
No. 9: RB Kerryon Johnson
No. 8: QB Sean White
No. 7: LB Deshaun Davis
No. 6: OG Alex Kozan
No. 5: DB Josh Holsey
No. 4: K Daniel Carlson