Spring Football Preview: Special Teams

A look at special teams units is featured as the Tigers prepare for spring practice.

Auburn, Ala.-- With the offense and defense likely needing time to adjust to the schemes of new coordinators Brian VanGorder and Scot Loeffler, the play of Auburn's special teams will be even more important to the team's success in 2012.

Auburn can field almost the same special teams personnel from last season, minus deep snapper Josh Harris, who snapped on field goals, punts and PATs for three seasons. Junior Jake Lembke is poised to replace Harris.

Josh Harris will be trying to make an NFL roster this year.

Returning to handle the snaps will be junior Ryan White, who didn't bobble a snap last season. The Tallahassee, Fla., native also played quarterback for Lincoln High, which makes him a threat if the Tigers make the call for a fake.

Junior Cody Parkey will be back to handle placekicking and kickoff duties. The Jupiter, Fla., native made 13 of 18 field goal attempts (72.2 percent) last season, including hitting 6-of-10 from 40 yards or more.

Cody Parkey did a good job of replacing Wes Byrum last season.

Parkey was consistent on kickoffs as well, with 38 of his 66 kickoffs going for touchbacks.

The Tigers will also welcome back their starting punter, Steven Clark, a first-team All-SEC selection last season. The junior led the SEC and was second in the nation with 33 punts inside the 20-yard line. He finished the season with a 40.8 yard average on 72 punts.

There won't be any turnover at the kick returner slots for the Tigers, either. Quan Bray comes back as Auburn's leading punt returner, after turning 13 punts into 96 yards last year. Another option for the Tigers is Trovon Reed, who returned 8 punts last season for 42 yards.

Tre Mason, Auburn's premier returner on kickoffs in 2011, will be back. The sophomore averaged 26.4 yards on 24 returns last season, including one he took 97 yards for a touchdown. He was complemented last year by Onterio McCalebb, who averaged 30.7 yards on 11 returns, which included a 83-yard touchdown return of his own.

McCalebb was a big-play threat on kickoff returns as a junior.

With Mason and McCalebb possibly carrying a heavier load at running back, Bray and Robenson Therezie may get more return opportunities on kickoffs. The two combined for 15 returns last season.

With so many specialists and other players returning who contributed on special teams, Jay Boulware's squads should be a strength of the 2012 Tigers.

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