Auburn, Ala.--A Freshman All-SEC performer as a redshirt freshman, Birmingham native Ryan Shoemaker was on the track to being of the best in Auburn history following his 2007 season but then inconsistency and a standout walk-on named Clinton Durst changed all that.
Averaging 42.4 yards per kick that first season, Shoemaker punted just seven times in 2008 and averaged only 35.4 yards. That significant drop proved to be a problem again in 2009 as he wasn’t able to take over the job with Durst again named the starter. Without a single punt Shoemaker was forced to start from scratch to win the job.
In order to accomplish his goal Shoemaker had to beat out talented freshman Steven Clarke. Going back and forth before winning the job, Shoemaker said the competition was both of them this preseason.
“Coming off of last season I had it in my head that I was going to work hard no matter what,” Shoemaker said. “It did help that he pushed me a little bit. That was good for both of us though because I feel like he’s gotten better as well.
“Steven is a really good punter,” Shoemaker added. “He’s one of the better freshmen I’ve ever seen come into college. He was really ready and he’s going to be really good here.”
For Shoemaker he hopes that time is next season. Always capable of bombing the ball down the field, the Oak Mountain High product has been plagued with a bad punt now and then to really throw his average off and put his defense in a bind. He said for him that has been the focus of the preseason.
“It has been a long competition,” Shoemaker said. “This offseason I have really worked on being more consistent. I feel like it has really paid off throughout this entire camp. I’m hitting the ball really well right now.
“Coaches base competition off of hang time, catch-to-kick, and it does play a factor,” Shoemaker added. “I felt like being more consistent throughout the entire race was a huge key for me. That’s what I have really strived to do is be consistent this year.”
Consistency is important in any facet of the kicking game as is speed. That’s especially the case in Auburn’s spread punt formation where the punter needs to be speedy in getting his kick off. Shoemaker said he’s worked on becoming quicker with his get off while also trying to consistently get good hang time.
In the end his improvement and attention to detail was enough for him to get the starting nod once again. After two long seasons Shoemaker said he doesn’t plan on giving up his job anytime soon.
“It’s awesome,” Shoemaker said. “I can’t wait to get back out there. Needless to say I’m not going to let anything drop off when it comes to working hard. I still have a lot of work to do. I want to strive to be the best in the country just like everyone else does. I’m exciting about being out there.”
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