Aug 16, 2013
Cody Parkey blasts one out of Ryan White's hold (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — They were two of the steady ones last year, and are back to handle the kicking chores again.
In a time of coaching change and a new philosophy, new Auburn coach Gus Malzahn can rest easy with senior place-kicker Cody Parkey and senor punter Steven Clark, the two special teams players who were solid during an otherwise difficult season for the Tigers last year,
First, their credentials: Clark averaged 39.8 yards per punt last year, dropping 15 punts inside the 20. Only five of 70 punts were returned against the guy who kicks it toward the heavens. Parkey hit 11 of 14 field goal tries, including nine straight. He's fourth all-time at Auburn, having made 75 percent of his field goal tries. Thirty-three of his 48 kickoffs last year were touchbacks.
Clark's punting average isn't huge, but he was told to get the ball high to limit returns.
"He can place the football," Malzahn said. "He has really worked hard and gotten better at length, and believe it or not, height also."
Oh, there's height, all right, especially when he takes aim at the ceiling of the indoor practice facility. That's a good sport, too, except with the equipment people get the footballs back with marks on them.
"My coaches, they want me to kick down the field, and I just do what I can," Clark says.
There could be a strategy shift for Clark. He may be asked to kick it longer rather than the high ones that can't be returned.
"It increases the possibility of some turnovers. That's probably the most exciting thing that ever happens whenever I'm punting," he said.
Either way, even with the high punts, Clark says he should be able to average 45 yards.
"I don’t really try to worry about averages as much anymore. I had gotten caught up with that in the past and it’s something that really messes with your head trying to worry about all that stuff," he said. "You don’t do numbers, all you do is you can punt and you can only prepare yourself as best you can."
Parkey says practice, even for kickers, is conducted in Malzahn's hurry-up approach.
"We're doing a lot of situational stuff, a lot of two-minute drill field goals and kickoffs and onside kicks. We're just getting the basics down so we'll be ready for that first game," Parkey said.
Clark said he's been working on the long-distance field goal. He hit 3-of-6 tries from 40-49 yards.
"It wasn't anything to do with my distance. I feel comfortable hitting far field goals, it just so happened that those were the ones I missed last year," he said. "I have been working on that a lot along with being more accurate."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine