AUBURN | Daniel Thomas may not be getting the reps on defense he’d like but the sophomore is still managing to make impact plays.
Thomas snuffed out a Missouri fake punt in the SEC opener and a week later did the same against Mississippi State. Thomas has become Auburn’s special teams stopper.
“Daniel is also a young guy that has stepped up really big,” senior safety Stephen Roberts said. “He’s preparing in practice really well. Special teams, he takes that really serious. As a guy that isn’t playing that much on defense, special teams is something you have to do for a minute. I think he takes that to a high standard.”
With Auburn already up 21-3 in the second quarter, the Bulldogs attempted a fake punt on 4th and 4 at their own 31-yard line. Punter Logan Cooke fielded the snap, took off behind a wall of blockers to the left side, but was dropped a yard short of the first down by Thomas, who flew in behind the blockers from the opposite hashmark.
“It's the same, really, fake punt that we stopped last week,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “Coach (Tim) Horton did a super job. That exact fake, he probably repped it three or four times, the way it fit and all that.
“That was a big play in the game. I don't think we were able to score points, I think that's when we missed the field goal right there, but that was a big stop and Coach Horton did a super job of kind of predicting what they would be thinking. Sure enough they did it.”
Auburn was already leading by 24 points when Missouri attempted a fake punt on 4th and 7 from its own 19-yard line. Punter Corey Fatony fielded the snap, broke to his left behind three blockers, but was dropped three yards short of a first down by Thomas, who was able to toss aside a blocker and again pursue from the opposite hashmark.
Auburn scored a touchdown two plays later to go up 38-7.
“Ole Daniel Thomas, he’s got a nose for the ball,” Horton said. “It was the first punt of the second half and we smelled it out and then we went in and scored. Really, that kind of sealed the game to be honest.”
Thomas is also working as a backup safety and nickel on defense.
No. 12 Auburn hosts Ole Miss Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. CT on SEC Network.