With the season kicking off on Saturday, many will be closely watching the offense, wondering what kind of effect Chad Morris will bring into the year, or the defense, wondering who will fill the massive holes created by the loss of Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson. There is one unit that cannot be overlooked, though — special teams.
When Auburn takes the field next week it will do so with Anders Carlson, the junior kicker. Carlson made 18-25 field goals and 48-49 PATs last season and is looking to have an even better season this year.
“My goal is to be the best kicker in college football,” said Carlson in a news conference last week.
Carlson is fully aware that to be the best kicker takes work. He spent quarantine with his brother, Daniel Carlson, who in his time at Auburn broke the SEC’s all-time scoring record with 474 points and now kicks for the Las Vegas Raiders. The two brothers spent three days a week perfecting their kicks and making sure that even a pandemic wouldn’t stand in the way of getting better.
“For me, life didn’t change much,” said Carlson. “I feel like I got the same amount of work in pre-quarantine and post-quarantine.”
While the kicking position may be all locked up barring a Covid crisis, other special teams positions are not. This week, Gus Malzahn emphasized building up more depth than ever, going so far as to practice five punt returners rather than the typical three, even though Christian Tutt will once again be the first returner out on the field for punts.
The uncertainty on special teams rests on who will start at punter with the departure of the consistent Arryn Siposs.
Two returning candidates for the punting job are Aidan Marshall and sophomore Crimmins Hankinson. Marshall is a junior who was on the Auburn football team for the 2017 season where he became the starter by week five. He started the Washington game in 2018 before leaving the team that September.
Competing against Marshall is Australian punter Oscar Chapman, the semi-professional Australian punter who announced his commitment, moved to Auburn, and has begun competing for the starting job in just under two months.
Marshall and Chapman are both listed as the potential starter on the depth chart released this week.
“Both guys can definitely help us,” said Malzahn. “Both guys are really good punters and that can definitely help you knowing what can happen the rest of the season.
"They’re in a competition and we’ve not decided who the first one is going to be."
Auburn kicks off the 2020 season against Kentucky at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.