HOOVER | It’s not quarterback or the offensive line or even the pass rush. It’s the punter.
Believe it or not, Gus Malzahn said that’s his biggest concern heading into the start of Auburn’s preseason practice.
“Probably the biggest question mark about the team is who is going to be the starting punter,” Malzahn said. “Ian Shannon is a guy who is competing with Daniel Carlson right now. The thing about Daniel, he has done it as a true freshman, so we'll see how that goes.”
Wade Rackley/Auburn athletics
Carlson handled Auburn’s field goal, extra points, kickoff and punting duties in 2014. But it was a strain on the freshman and Malzahn brought in junior college standout Kevin Phillips to handle the punting duties the next two seasons.
With Phillips’ eligibility up, Malzahn was looking for Shannon, a sophomore, to take over the punting duties this season. He averaged 30.7 yards on three punts as a redshirt freshman last season.
“I think common sense you’d rather Ian win the job and let Daniel focus on kickoffs and field goal kicking,” Malzahn said.
It’s more consistency that Malzahn is looking for from Shannon. If he can’t find it, Carlson is ready to step up. He averaged 42.0 yards on 41 punts with a long of 62 yards in 2014. He downed 13 inside the 20-yard line.
“I want to do what I have to do to help the team. That’s my focus,” Carlson said. “I think that Ian Shannon should be punter. I think he will do a great job. I’m ready to punt if I need to step up. I’m just here to help the team, so I’m not worried about how it will affect me personally. Hopefully my field goals and kicking will be great, and if I need to help out at punting that will be great too.”
Carlson, a preseason All-American and two-time Lou Groza Award finalist, already holds 12 Auburn kicking and scoring records. He made 28-of-32 field goals as a junior last season and has made eight field goals of 50 or more yards in his career.
Auburn’s preseason practice is scheduled to begin July 31.