Boulware Hoping Newcomers Make Team Special

Auburn special teams coach Jay Boulware talks about the preseason and getting ready for the opener.

Auburn, Ala.--Coming off one of the best seasons in school history when he made 15-16 field goals and all 54 extra-points, senior kicker Wes Byrum was a known commodity entering preseason practice in 2010 said coach Jay Boulware. Having that one guy to lean on has been nice said Auburn's special teams' coach as he prepares the Tigers for the season opener against Arkansas State on Sept. 4.

"He's been solid," Boulware said. "He's been working to get his timing down to where it was last year. He's been working diligently at it. His biggest thing is that he not only wants to do field goals this year but also kick off. He's been working hard at that."

One of the positions that is still up for grabs is at the punter spot where the Tigers are looking for a replacement for Clinton Durst. Senior Ryan Shoemaker was the favorite going into the preseason because of his experience but Boulware said freshman Steven Clark has come on strong in his little time at Auburn.

"I wish they had," Boulware said. "Right now it's really close which I guess is a positive for the freshman. He's doing a good job. There are a couple of areas where Steven is better than shoe and one area where Shoe is a little better than Steven. It's neck and neck. How well they do this week is probably going to determine things."

Looking for a complete punter, Boulware said at the moment Shoemaker is getting more distance with his punts but Clark has a better hang time and is getting them off in a faster time. With just a week and a half until the opener, Boulware said he's hoping to see one of them step up and take things over sooner rather than later.

"You've got two guys that really and truly can get the job done," Boulware said. "It's just a matter of can they do it consistently in front of 90,000 or in front of a road crowd that is ringing bells."

While Byrum is a lock to be Auburn's field goal kicker this season, Boulware said there is still a possibility that freshman Cody Parkey could be used on kickoffs if he's able to beat out the senior. Even though they haven't done it in a game yet, he said both of his freshmen have shown they are willing to compete and that's a good sign.

"When we recruit people it's just like any other position," Boulware said of Parkey and Clark. "We bring them in here with the aspirations of starting. We want those guys to come in here and want to be the guy. Cody came in here with that mentality and Steven has. Both of those kids are doing a phenomenal job of competing and raising the bar for our older kids. They can't relax because the young kids are talented."

Parkey and Clark aren't the only newcomers that could make a mark on special teams as several of the incoming freshmen could play a big role in not only the return game but also on the coverage teams and in blocking roles. Trovon Reed and Jonathan Mincy are both working as punt returners along with junior Quindarius Carr while Reed is also working as a kickoff return man.

In addition to the return game several of the freshmen are likely to be making a big impact on special teams including Shaun Kitchens, Craig Sanders, Corey Lemonier and Jeffrey Whitaker. Boulware said there are some obvious positives that come with the additional talent the Tigers have this year but there will be some growing pains as well.

"It has given me about a full day and a half so far with our head coach talking personnel," Boulware said. "Last year that talk was about two hours long. It has been refreshing but at the same time there are a bunch of young kids that don't really know how to play college football. There are some guys that are extremely talented, more talented than we were last year.

"Coach (Tommy) Thigpen made the comment while we were coming up that we look faster than we did last year," he added. "I said ‘I'm pretty sure we are'. We're a faster football team and hopefully that transfers over into play. They're inexperienced and they've never played a down of college football. We have techniques just like on offense and defense they have to learn and grasp in order to function as a unit. That's what we're trying to get to right now."

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories