Jan. 17, 2014
Steven Clark steady as Auburn's punter for four years (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Steven Clark's punts were drop-dead gorgeous.
They were high, they were driving and they had an uncanny ability to land in the shadow of an opponents' goal post, hit like a wedge shot, and stay there.
Today, Clark is preparing for Saturday's East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., after spending a week of trying to impress pro scouts as the first of eight Auburn players who will appear in all-star games this season. After Saturday, he'll work toward the NFL Combine, the high-profile showcase where he'll kick in front of NFL scouts. He'll do it as well in Auburn's Pro Day and beyond.
Sharp scouts will know this: Clark was good for Auburn all season, and especially clutch in the biggest games of the year. He averaged 42.5 yards per punt, but the eye-popping numbers were this: Clark saw his punts downed at the 1, 1, 2, 4, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9-yard line against Georgia, Alabama, in the SEC title game and the BCS Championship Game. Only five of his 70 punts were returned in 2012. Only five of 50 punts were returned in 2013.
"I had a great coverage team, too, that helped me out in that regard. We did do a great job keeping teams backed up," Clark said.
CBSSports.com rates him as the fourth best punter heading into the NFL draft. But who knows what the pro scouts are thinking, even after watching prospects this week.
"They've been gathering a lot of information about us all week, every night," Clark said. "They've reached out to get information...personal questions and that type of stuff.
"They pretty much all asked us the same questions. Some are more detailed, some are more personal than others. Sometimes it's, 'What your best game? What's your worst game? What do you feel like you do well? What do you feel like you don't do well?'"
Rain during the week spoiled practices and the chance for scouts to see players in a lot of action. Clark says most have moved on and won't be at the game. But the NFL Combine will bring a lot of the top punters together, anyway.
Clark knows punters aren't generally drafted. Teams in need will bring prospects in to camps.
"I understand it's a pretty limited number," Clark said. "I'm just trying to get better at my craft, trying to perfect it as much as I can between now and draft day. I hope I have opportunities to show what I can do. I know I have NFL potential and it's just a matter of being able to pull out the right cards and showing them what I can do."
The advantage of being drafted, Clark said, is "there's a lot more guaranteed money."
"But a lot of teams aren't willing to spend draft pick on a punter. So there are other opportunities to be invited to training camps or even sign right after the draft."
Other Auburn players in all-star games are Dee Ford, Chris Davis, Jay Prosch and Cody Parkey in next week's Senior Bowl in Mobile; and Nosa Eguae, Jake Holland and Ryan White in the College All-Star Game on Feb. 14.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine