April 15, 2014
Auburn's Scott Fountain has a rebuilding job to do on special teams (Lauren Barnard photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Scott Fountain's first season as Auburn's special teams coordinator couldn't have gone much better. Fountain's men made major contributions in Auburn's run to the Southeastern Conference championship.
Punter Steven Clark and kicker Cody Parkey were among the Southeastern Conference's best. Chris Davis led the SEC in average yards per punt return and had an 88-yarder against Tennessee. Tre Mason and Corey Grant returned kickoffs for touchdowns.
And there was the biggest return of all when Davis took a missed Alabama field goal try 109 yards to lift Auburn to a 34-28 victory in the Iron Bowl.
But other than Grant, all those players are busy preparing for their shots at playing in the NFL. And, as spring practice nears its end, Fountain is working to put together next season's special teams.
Jimmy Hutchinson is the heir apparent at punter and Daniel Carlson at kicker. Both are redshirt freshmen.
"I've been pleased with Daniel," Fountain said. "Daniel has a very strong leg. As he's gone through spring, I've seen him get more comfortable. On kickoffs we are trying to do some certain things with him. I'm real pleased with how he placed the ball off the tee."
Hutchinson, Fountain says, needs to be more consistent.
"Hutchinson has really hit some boomers, but we have to get distance and hang time matched up," Fountain said. "Daniel is farther along, but Jimmy isn't that far behind."
Clark averaged 42.6 yards per punt last season and dropped a startling 26 of them inside the 20. Nine were inside the 5.
"He was awesome," Fountain said. "In the Georgia game, Alabama game, Missouri game, Florida State, he was incredible."
No. 3 quarterback Jonathan Wallace, backup punter Tyler Stovall and backup kicker Alex Kviklys have worked as the holder during the spring.
The search is on for a punt returner to fill the considerable void left by Davis' departure. Senior star Robenson Therezie will probably leave spring practice leading the pack.
Sophomore wide receiver Marcus Davis, senior cornerback Jonathon Mincy, senior safety Jermaine Whitehead and speedy walk-on redshirt freshman Gray King are also getting work returning punts.
"Therezie has looked really good," Fountain said. "He has an opportunity to do it. He's a thick kid, big and strong and can make tackles."
Fountain doesn't buy into the idea that being sure-handed catching punts is enough.
"It's important to catch the ball, but it's also important to have a guy that can return it," Fountain said. "We try to take a lot of pride on the punt return team and be good at it."
Ricardo Louis, Sammie Coates, Quan Bray, Rudy Ford, Grant, D'haquille Williams and Stanton Truitt, Fountain said, have had work returning kickoffs.
"We've got some real speed back there," Fountain said. "We've got an opportunity to do some good things."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: