Punt Coverage Team Has Possibilities

Auburn, Ala.--Eddie Gran is hopeful that with an experienced punter returning who appears to be in a groove this preseason that punting and punt coverage will be a strength of the 2005 Auburn football team.

Kody Bliss, a junior, returns for his third year as the starter. In practice, he has been more consistent than ever and is punting the ball higher and longer than in his previous collegiate seasons.

Bliss goes into the 2005 season as a preseason first team All-SEC pick.

"Kody has got great tempo right now," Gran says. "His hang time is right where you need it. There are not very many that he shanks or doesn't have good hang time on when he punts the ball. He gives us a chance to have a lot of fair catches."

Kody Bliss, who is shown in practice last week, averaged 42.3 yards per punt as a sophomore.

Last the Tigers got tremendous play on punt coverage from cornerback Carlos Rogers, who is now playing the game professionally for the Washington Redskins. Gran says that he will be missed.

"The biggest thing right now is replacing Carlos Rogers," Gran says. "Courtney (Courtney Taylor) came around last year as one of those gunners who could be productive. Courtney will be the guy who will lead it and David Irons, Tre Smith, Tristan Davis, Lorenzo Ferguson and some of those guys will be rotating in those spots.

"They have got the ability," Gran adds. "It is just going through that game experience now and seeing all of the different looks. Kody back there will give them a chance because of his hang time and his experience."

Other players in contention for running with the first unit in punt coverage include Travis Williams, Cooper Wallace, Cole Bennett Anthony Mix, Antarrious Williams and Karibi Dede. Will Herring is the number one personal protector for the punter and Pete Compton snaps on punts.

Ed Gran has a hug for Carlos Rogers last season.

Chas Crofoot, the field goal deep snapper, is Compton's backup while Jake Slaughter backs up Herring. Among the players working on the punt coverage team are Montae Pitts, Eric Brock, Carl Stewart, Tommy Trott, Christopher Browder, Quentin Groves, Jonathan Wilhite, Devin Aromashodu, Danny Perry, Octavious Balkcom, Courtney Harden and Tray Blackmon.

"There is going to be a mixture of a couple of starters and a couple of young guys," Gran says. "You don't want all young guys going down the field. Hopefully, by the sixth game, we will have more of the young guys moving into starting roles."

Last season's team was successful with a variety of star players in special team roles like Rogers, Carnell Willliams and Ronnie Brown. "Nobody complains around here about playing on special teams," Gran says. "That is the philosophy the guys have. They saw guys like Carnell, Ronnie and Carlos Rogers succeed at it and that makes my job easier."

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