Freshman Punter Clark Looking For Consistency

Freshman punter Steven Clark talks about the adjustment to college football and batting Ryan Shoemaker for the starting job.

Auburn, Ala.--Entering the 2010 camp one of the positions up for grabs is the punting job following the graduation of Clinton Durst. With senior and former starter Ryan Shoemaker returning it may have seemed a formality the job would be his this fall but enter true freshman Steven Clark.

A talented punter with a very strong leg, Clark was a tight end and defensive end in high school before deciding to go the full-time punter route following several impressive kicking camps. Now in his first preseason with the Auburn Tigers he said he's just excited about the opportunity to compete for a job.

"It has been going good," Clark said. "I'm just getting in there and getting a little work done. I'm just trying to get better as fast as I possibly can. I'm just trying to work hard and do what they tell me to do."

One of the biggest adjustments from high school to college football is the speed of the game. Not only is that a factor playing a position on offense or defense, but also in the kicking game. Forced to speed up his mechanics and approach to punting, Clark said they have been working on the first and most important part of the being a good punter.

"Right now I have been working a lot on catching and getting my hands faster," Clark said. "I want to make sure I can get it in the right spot because the drop is the most important thing. Then it's just the steps and making sure you're doing everything the same time. That's probably the most difficult thing and the most important."

Helping that adjustment to speed things up has been several drills Clark has employed with the help of special teams coach Jay Boulware. One of them has been to catch and punt while taking just one step. It's a drill designed to help the mechanics of the kick and Clark said it has been beneficial to him.

"One-step takes out a lot of the extra movement to get you ready," Clark said. "Two-step is probably what is the most typical thing to do. One-step is more of a drill thing but you can always pull that out if you're having issues. It's always a nice thing to have in your bag of tricks."

Another adjustment for Clark is getting used to Auburn's spread punt formation that has essentially three linemen just a few yards in front of him as he punts. He said while it takes some getting used to, the biggest thing for him is to be consistent punting the ball.

"It's something where you just basically have to work on your mechanics," Clark said. "Once you get your mechanics down, which is what I'm working on, and become consistent then you can just pretty much punt no matter what protection you have. If you're getting it off fast they're going to have a hard time blocking it. They have been doing a great job of getting the guys ready on the shield."

While Clark is locked in a battle, Shoemaker would still be considered the favorite because of his strong leg and his experience from the 2007 season as Auburn's starting punter. Clark said Shoemaker has been instrumental in helping him adjust to the game and he's happy just to have a shot to win the job at the moment. No matter what happens he said both will be better in the long run because of what they will go through in camp.

"I'm trying," Clark said. "I'm going to work as hard as I can. If they decide to put me at first, I understand that Shoe is a great punter and great guy. It has been an honor to work with him because he has been helping me out a lot. It's a friendly competition. It's definitely going to make us better in the long run."

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