P Jimmy Hutchinson
Perhaps the surprise of camp so far has come from special teams coordinator Scott Fountain, who said the race to replace Steven Clark at punter is still four-wide at this point.
“We’re looking at, of course, Jimmy Hutchinson," Fountain said. "Daniel Carlson, who’s kind of solidified himself as the kicker for us, he’s also working at the punting area to see if he can compete there. Matt Shiel, the Australian...we wanted to bring him in and try to create a competitive atmosphere, and he’s done that for us. Tyler Stovall, the former baseball player, is competing."
With Hutchinson being the only punter on scholarship for the Tigers, the new starter seemed to be a foregone conclusion. A redshirt freshman, he was the consensus No. 1 punter nationally in the 2013 class.
But now, Fountain is suggesting there could even be a "by committee" approach—similar to that of the running backs—if there is no further separation.
"You have to find a guy that can do it all for you—can direct the punts, do sky punts—or you can do a punt-by-committee," Fountain said. "Maybe this guy’s good at this, this guy’s good at that, and we’re kind of looking at both avenues. Naturally, you’d like to have a guy that can just do all that for you to focus on. What we’re going to have to do in the next week or so is just narrow the pool down from four to three to two, and then go with our guy."
If Hutchinson cannot win the starting job by the end of camp, Carlson could be Auburn's first do-it-all specialist since Damon Duval, who finished his collegiate career in 2002.
Also, keep an eye on Shiel—especially after Clark's success with the Aussie-style punt last season.
Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.