New Orleans, La.--Practicing outside on Thursday at Tulane on a cool and blustery day, the Auburn football Tigers continued prep for the Sugar Bowl against the Oklahoma Sooners with a two-hour workout.
While the story on the field was the passing of quarterback Sean White and running of Kamryn Pettway with both of them much closer to full speed, the big news came when junior kicker Daniel Carlson announced his plans to return for his senior season with the Tigers.
“That’s something I’ve been talking about with coaches right now,” Carlson said. “It was more just checking my options and stuff, but I think my heart is definitely towards coming back. That’s what I’ve been really working on and praying a lot about the last couple of weeks so I’ll be around next year.”
Something that is a big draw for Carlson is having his younger brother Anders Carlson on the roster next season. An Under Armour All-American who will be a freshman for the Tigers in 2017, the younger Carlson will have a chance to learn the ropes from his older brother.
“That is important to me and that is real special to me,” Carlson said. “Not a lot of people get to do thatso it’ll be fun to kind of coach him up a little and see how he does after I leave.”
While Carlson plans to return, the decision hasn’t been finalized yet for a couple of Tigers weighing their draft stock.
Junior offensive guard Braden Smith said at the moment he’s concentrating on the Sugar Bowl and will make his decision following the Jan. 2 game. For safety Tray Matthews, things have gone a step closer as he’s already submitted his paperwork to the NFL, but is leaning towards returning to school at the moment.
With his decision done, Carlson said the focus for him and this team is on playing well against Oklahoma and building momentum heading into next season.
“I think it’s huge, obviously they’re a really good team,” Carlson said of the Sugar Bowl. “It’s a huge opportunity in an awesome bowl game. So I think it would just carry some momentum, cap off a solid year and build in some momentum for next year.”
Giving The Defense A Look
Auburn has plenty of options to play Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield in practices this week and the Tigers are exhausting all of those possibilities. In addition to guys like Devin Adams and Tyler Queen, Auburn is also using Woody Barrett and even Jeremy Johnson to give the defense a feel for what facing the Heisman finalist is going to be like.
Getting his first real taste of bowl prep as Auburn gets ready for the Sooners, junior linebacker DeShaun Davis said having so many guys give them a look at the Oklahoma offense has been a big help.
“All of those guys bring something different to the table,” Davis said. “Some can run, some can throw, some can do both. I feel like they give us a pretty good look at what we're going to see, but like I said, he's a special breed. He's a wonder quarterback. When he's on the field, you know he's on the field.”
Healthy And Ready To Roll
Having White and Pettway back on the practice field has been the big news for bowl prep for Auburn, but this team has a stable of players who are closer to full speed than they have been since early in the season. Davis is one of those guys, struggling with a groin injury the second half of the season himself.
Others on defense such as Tre Williams, Carlton Davis and Josh Holsey have been bothered by nagging injuries for the last half of the season as well. DeShaun Davis said getting everyone back going strong has made a difference.
“When we went on that winning streak during the middle of the year, we were 100 percent healthy,” the linebacker said. “All those guys were having fun, and we were flying around and making plays on both sides of the ball and special teams. Having everybody 100 percent healthy, we kind of feel like we're going to get that team we were looking at during the middle of the year.”