Auburn football looking for separation in battle for starting punter
AUBURN, Ala. — In the first week of Auburn football fall camp, the Tigers started to separate themselves across the depth chart.
That excludes one starting position. According to Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, the starting punter job is up for grabs. Malzahn called the position the team’s “biggest question mark” at SEC Media Days, and he’s no closer to answering it one month later.
“I’ll say this, nobody has separated themselves yet,” Malzahn said Saturday. “We’ll do some live punt and punt return in the stadium on Monday. That will be very important. No one has separated themselves yet.”
Auburn will enter its first scrimmage of fall camp Monday without inclination toward sophomore Ian Shannon or freshman walk-on Aidan Marshall for the starting job.
Shannon was the favorite to inherit the role from Kevin Phillips, but he struggled with consistency throughout the spring after averaging 30.7 yards on 3 punts in 2016. Auburn challenged the sophomore to step it up over the summer, and he has time to lock down the job this month.
“It’s concerning that we don’t have a starter at this point, no doubt,” Malzahn said. “I do feel like we’ve got some solid options.”
Malzahn won’t rule out using senior kicker Daniel Carlson as a do-it-all specialist in 2017. Auburn would prefer Carlson to stick to field goals and kickoffs, as the extra work on his leg contributed to a tougher freshman campaign when he did it in 2014.
“Daniel Carlson can do it,” Malzahn said. “He did it as a freshman. Is it ideal, is it best for our team? It would be best for our team if one of those other guys would step up. Daniel has done it and if he has to do it he’ll do it and do a good job. That’s a good competition.”
When asked if Auburn would pursue a last-minute graduate transfer to address the punting situation, Malzahn said “the guys that are here are the guys we’re planning on doing it.”
That mostly narrows it down to Shannon and Marshall, and Malzahn wants to see separation when Auburn returns to the practice field Monday.
“We need somebody to step up and get it done,” Malzahn said. “That’s our plan, and at this point, I think we’ll be able to do that.”