Auburn, Ala.--With the offense still working out the kinks and the defense struggling, special teams play has become a critical component of Auburn’s two last-minute wins.
While first-year placekicker Cody Parkey’s kicking prowess on kickoffs has fans and coaches delighted, perhaps the most important and electrifying addition to Auburn’s special teams is true freshman Tre Mason. The Lake Worth, Fla., native’s 348 yards on 10 kickoff returns is good for second in the nation and tops in the Southeastern Conference. It’s just business as usual, though, according to the true freshman.
“Coach (Curtis) Luper always told me, and Coach (Gene) Chizik, that’s what they recruited us for--to come out here and play, and I try to contribute as much as possible and try to be an impact player,” the freshman said. “I try to use my skills as one of the lethal weapons on this team. Us coming together, we should all just be a lethal team.”
Mason, who returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in Auburn’s first game against Utah State, has looked to be a threat to score about every time he touches the football on a kickoff return.
“That’s my aiming point,” he said. “I try to house every kick return that I get. That’s my job. Coach (Jay) Boulware put me back there, and put this whole unit out there, because he know what we can do.”
Cody Parkey handles field goals, extra points and kickoffs for the Tigers.
Another integral player on special teams for the Tigers is Parkey, who played in a part-time role last season as a sophomore.
“We have so many good guys that we are clicking as a whole right now,” the sophomore said of Auburn’s special teams play. “When we have guys like Tre Mason returning kicks, it makes us all look good. Whether it’s the other team getting touchbacks or our team sticking them inside the 20, we are just clicking really well right now.”
Parkey’s strong leg has made touchbacks a common occurrence this season instead of a rarity. Eight of the sophomore’s 14 kickoffs this season have gone for touchbacks, good for an impressive 57 percent touchback rate.
“It gives our defense a huge advantage so I’ll try to keep that up,”?Parkey said. “They’re the ones who motivate me to kick it into the end zone. They have got to go 80 yards, so we need that every time, so I try to do that for them.”
In addition to booming kicks into the end zone for touchbacks Saturday against the Bulldogs, Parkey also knocked his first two field goals through the uprights, which the sophomore from Jupiter, Fla., took in stride.
“It was good,” said Parkey of making the first field goals of his career. “I got out there and me, Ryan (White), Josh (Harris) and the whole line just executed it so it just felt like practice, really, just going out there and doing the motion.”
The Tigers will count on Parkey’s strong and accurate leg and Mason’s wheels and shiftiness once again when the Auburn hits the road to face the Clemson Tigers on Saturday at 11 a.m. CDT.
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