Auburn vs Arkansas: 3 Keys to Victory

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2. Win on Special Teams: In his recent press conferences, head coach Gus Malzahn has emphasized that season opening games can be won or lost on special teams. “Because of that, we kind of tried to get better around those guys,” Malzahn said Wednesday.

Apr 19, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers kicker Daniel Carlson (38) tries a field goal during the first half of the A-Day spring game at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

That means the Tigers will likely feature more players on special teams that have full-time roles on offense or defense. Instead of stacking special teams units, such as the punt or kickoff coverage teams, with walk-ons or players that don’t often see the field, it sounds like Auburn will have a higher level of skill on their special teams personnel. And that’s a good thing.

Injuries are a concern when you put starters or contributors on special teams, but giving up big plays in the return game should be a bigger concern. Arkansas showed last year that they would be “aggressive” on special teams, as Malzahn put it. The Hogs tried an onside kick in the first half of the game, and are sure to have a few tricks up their sleeves on Saturday. Therefore, it makes sense to staff the special teams units with better than average performers.

Of course, this is all in addition to the new specialists that will play a role in the kicking game. Redshirt freshman Daniel Carlson will get his first collegiate action as both a punter and placekicker. He won both jobs this fall, and will be called upon to both score points and help Auburn win the field position battle.