Clark put each of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks last Saturday. He has 21 this year, which is the most of any player in the country. Clark’s 88 percent touchback rate leads the SEC.
A walk-on from South Gwinnett High in Grayson, Ga., he was cut from the Auburn team prior to preseason practice last year. However, after the Tigers struggled with kickoffs his former teammates recruited him off an intramural team and he has been the starting kickoff man since then.
Matt Clark was playing quarterback on an intramural team before rejoining the AU team.
AU opponents have only 64 total return yards this season, which is the third lowest total nationally.
The SEC has honored an AU player each week. Tailback Kenny Irons was named the top offensive player after the Washington State game. Guard Ben Grubbs was named the offensive lineman of the week after the Tigers defeated Mississippi State. Punter Kody Bliss won the special teams honor last week.
Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville says Clark’s play has been one of the highlights of the season for the 4-0 Tigers who will play at 3-1 South Carolina on Thursday night.
"He’s tremendous, I don’t know the exact number, but very few kicks have not been out the back of the end zone," Tuberville says. "Last week, you knew it was going to be a good game when we opened up and our first kick hit the crossbar. There really wasn’t a whole lot of wind to aid it.
"Matt has gotten stronger and stronger and he has got more confidence. Last year, he had a little bit of a problem with coming over the top of the ball when he would try to hit it hard and it looked like one of my drives--right to left duck-hook. This year, he is a little bit better at it; he is more consistent.
"The opening kickoff against Mississippi State, he caught a little bit fat and kind of squibbed it down the field, but other than that he has been almost perfect. It’s a great weapon knowing that a lot of your guys don’t get beat up trying to cover kickoffs.
Auburn will be facing the SEC Offensive Player of the Week, Sidney Rice, who caught five touchdown passes on Saturday vs. Florida Atlantic. Arkansas safety Randy Kelly is the SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
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