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August 15, 2013

Auburn football: Specialists seek to perfect technique as season draws closer

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Steven Clark has played golf his entire life.

Senior kicker Cody Parkey said he has focused on attempts from 40 yards and longer, since all three of his misses came from that distance and longer. (File photo)

Senior kicker Cody Parkey said he has focused on attempts from 40 yards and longer, since all three of his misses came from that distance and longer. (File photo)

In fact, Auburn’s senior punter said it predated his career on the gridiron. Given the parallels between punting and golf, it was a thrill for Clark to hear from the winner of this year’s PGA Championship following Thursday morning’s practice.

And the address came from an Auburn alumnus and fervent Tigers’ football fan, Jason Dufner.

“Really my position is a lot more like golf than any other position, just as far as, you’ve got to have different clubs, you’ve got to have practice with each one, and it’s a day-to-day thing,” he said. “You know you’ve just got to keep trying to refine your craft. If I can ever win the PGA Championship with punting, that would be the best day of my life, too. Hopefully I can come back and share a little wisdom like he did today.”

Clark was disappointed when he was informed during his time with reporters that senior kicker Cody Parkey had already snapped a photo with Dufner and the Wanamaker Trophy.

“I’m going to have to do that,” he said. “I hope (Dufner) is still out there.”

As far as his punting goes, Clark actually hopes there will be more returned kicks this year. Incredibly, only five of his 70 attempts last year were returned. Clark wants to see more runbacks since it will mean he’ll get to make some longer kicks.

There’s another reason, too.

“It increases the possibility of some turnovers,” he said. “That’s probably the most exciting thing that ever happens when I’m punting — trying to run back there, and (seeing) them drop it and we end up getting it back. I don’t know how much more I can do.”

Clark said he hasn’t felt like he has had to sacrifice distance on his punts in the past seasons. Besides, if there’s one thing he’s learned, it’s not to get caught looking at statistics.

The results are the only things that matter in the end.

“I don’t really try to worry about averages as much anymore,” he said. “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. You don’t do numbers. All you do is you can punt and you can only prepare yourself as best you can. That’s all you can really control.”

Parkey felt a little differently, as he admitted worrying about numbers. Specifically, he focused on his 3-for-6 showing on kicks between 40 and 50 yards last season. He went 8-for-8 from 39 yards and in.

“It wasn’t anything to do with my distance,” he said of his misfires in 2012. “I feel comfortable hitting far field goals. It just so happened that those were the ones I missed last year. I have been working on that a lot along with being more accurate. Along with hitting 55-yard field goals, you have to be hitting them straight.”

Parkey has been thankful for the team’s new indoor practice facility. Despite the wet weather this summer, it hasn’t affected his preparation.

“It’s phenomenal” he said. “Back in 2010, my freshman year, we had the small indoor (facility) and we weren’t able to kick or anything in there. Now I can do field goals and kickoffs and all that. … It works to our advantage to get out there as long and as much as we can to practice.”

Another kicker who has been able to put in work during fall camp has been Daniel Carlson. The 6-foot-5 true freshman’s “big leg” has impressed Parkey.

The senior also acknowledged the Colorado Springs, Colo., native is farther along in his development than he was at the same time of his career.

“He’s really smooth,” Parkey said, “and I think he’s going to be a good one for Auburn in the future.”

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