With fall practice potentially starting up in early August, this week’s preview will focus on the third phase of a football game: special teams
Of Auburn’s kickers, the Tigers will only lose backup Sage Ledbetter to graduation. Ledbetter served as Auburn’s holder for the past two years and kicked two PATs during the game against Kent State.
Auburn will not lose any long snappers but will have to replace their starting punter, Arryn Siposs, who left early to enter to NFL Draft and was signed by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent. Siposs was a two-year starter for the Tigers who averaged 43.8 yards on 61 punts for the season, which ranked 28th nationally.
Auburn will lose leading kick returner Noah Igbinoghene, who averaged 35.2 yards per return last season.
The gem of Auburn’s special teams unit will return in 2020. Kicker Anders Carlson is expected to start for a third season in a row. Carlson was 18 of 25 on field goals last season and 48-49 on PATs. Carlson, along with his older brother Daniel Carlson and Cody Parkey, set the NCAA record for PATs in a row at 304, with Anders Carlson hitting in the 304th in Auburn’s game against Arkansas before missing the very next attempt.
Carlson also handled the kickoff duties with 47 touchbacks on 78 kickoffs. Along with Carlson, Auburn will also return sophomore kickers Ben Patton and Patrick Markwalter. Patton is the only one of the two with game experience, kicking two PATs last season against Samford.
Auburn returns all three of its long-snappers in 2020. The regular starter has been junior Bill Taylor, but after he was injured last season it was Clarke Smith and Jacob Quattlebaum who filled in for him. Smith handled primarily punting situations while Quattlebaum handled the PATs and field goals. With all three returning, there seems to be no concerns at the position.
The only punter listed on the roster from 2019 who is returning is the aforementioned Patrick Markwalter, who served as both a kicker and backup punter last season. Markwalter has not played a collegiate snap.
This week, Auburn reportedly landed another punter from Australia, as Oscar Chapman announced on Twitter that he had accepted a blue shirt offer from the Tigers and would be arriving on The Plains for the first time in early August. Chapman has trained for a year with ProKick Australia, according to 247Sports.
In 2020, Auburn will bring in Evan McGuire from Thompson High School into its kicking corps. McGuire connected on 11 of 15 of his field goal attempts over the last two seasons, going 6-for-6 last year. Over the last two seasons, he made 109 of his 119 extra point attempts and had 153 of 120 kickoffs go for touchbacks. McGuire is the only specialist that Auburn is welcoming from the class of 2020.
Auburn will return its breakout punt returner Christian Tutt, who averaged 13.6 yards on 23 attempts last season.
Auburn’s special teams are coordinated by Larry Porter, who also serves as the tight end and halfbacks coach. Porter is a 22-year veteran who began his career at Tennessee-Martin in 1998 before moving on to roles at Arkansas State (1999-2001), Oklahoma State (2002-2004), LSU (2005-2009), was the head coach of his alma mater Memphis (2010-2011), Arizona State (2012), Texas (2013), North Carolina (2014-2016), before coming to Auburn in 2017. Porter stepped into the role of special teams coordinator in 2018.
The kicking and long snapping positions seemed to be locked and loaded once again heading into the 2020 season. Getting Tutt back for another season is a big win for Auburn’s punt return game, but they will need to get a solid replacement for Igbinoghene.
Most signs point to Shivers as the man to become the next lead returner. He was number two to Igbinoghene last season, averaging 18 yards on four kick returns.
The position most in question will be punter. The only person left on Auburn’s roster who has attempted a college punt is Bo Nix, and while the idea of a quarterback also serving as the punter is not unheard of, it is extremely rare and more of a fun idea to play around with. More than likely, it will be either Siposs’ backup, Markwalter, or his fellow countryman from Australia, Chapman, who will have little time to get accustomed to living in Alabama before begins competing for the starting punter position in fall camp.