AU Spring Preview: Field Goals, Kickoffs

Editor's Note: This is the fifth in a series of articles previewing spring football practice at Auburn.

Auburn, Ala.--Although Devin Aromashodu is now trying to make a living in the National Football League and will be missed, Auburn looks like it will have a number of good options as the Tigers look to replace the wide receiver as kickoff returner.

Aromashodu was among the nation's leaders in returns for much of the year and ended the season with an average of 24.3 yards per return. However, he was second on the team in yards per return to Brad Lester, who averaged 49 yards per return on his four attempts.

Lester was injured part of the season and that limited his opportunities. Auburn assistant coach Eddie Gran is expecting Lester to be a featured returner this season as a redshirt sophomore.

"Brad Lester would be the starter on one side and the other side is open," Gran says. "I like Savage (redshirt freshman cornerback Aairon Savage) back there from what he did on scout team. We will take a look at him there.

Brad Lester has been a big-play man on kickoffs going back to his high school playing days.

"Pat Lee (cornerback Patrick Lee) is a guy who actually got the starting position going into the first game last year, but it got kind of crazy," Gran notes. "He was playing eight or nine snaps on a drive and then he was tired. He was beat up a little throughout the year and I ended up putting Brad back there and he did a good job for us."

A player who Gran worked with part of the season last year as a running back/safety, Tristan Davis, is scheduled to be a full-time defensive player, but his speed is just too impressive not to give him a chance to carry the football. Davis will get his shot doing that as a kickoff return man.

"Going into the spring, Tristan Davis will probably be the starter--him and Brad," Gran notes. "Ben Tate is a guy we might put back there."

Tristan Davis is one of Auburn's fastest players.

Tate, a 2006 tailback signee from Maryland, is already enrolled at Auburn participating in winter workouts and will be one of the most watched players when the Tigers begin spring drills on Feb. 28th.

"Tre Smith is a guy we can put in the rotation at both kickoff return and punt returner," Gran says of the senior running back. "Tre will be a huge factor for us on special teams--maybe not so much on returning, but he can do other things like blocking kicks and being a gunner on punts. On kickoff coverage he has done a great job for us there."

The Tigers return their three kickers from last year. Walk-on Matt Clark handled the kickoffs, John Vaughn kicked the field goals and Zac Kutch was a backup as a true freshman.

Matt Clark returned to the squad last fall when the Tigers struggled early in the season with their kickoffs. The walk-on was playing intramural football before getting another shot with the team.

"Our kickoff guy going into spring would have to be Matt Clark and we are going to see it Kutch can beat him out," Gran says.

"John Vaughn is back as field goal kicker and I think I am going to let Clark do some field goal kicking along with Kutch. Kutch needs to push John and Matt is a guy who can kick a 48 or 52-yarder. I think he needs to be prepared to do that. It is not much effort for him to do that."

The Tigers are scheduled to practice through March 22nd with the annual A-Day spring game set for Saturday, March 18th at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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