Kameron Stutts crouched into his punt protection stance just inside the Kyle Field end zone, a few yards ahead of and slightly to the right of Auburn punter Arryn Siposs.
Auburn led Texas A&M 14-3, and with 12 seconds left in the first half of last year’s game the most important thing was avoiding a blocked punt.
A 2018 Brooks High graduate, Stutts acknowledges his special teams work is more fun when opposing teams bring heavy pressure. Well, here it was.
Seven Aggies immediately stormed toward the punter and one of them got tangled with Stutts, knocking the 6-4, 330-pound redshirt freshman to the ground.
“(Siposs) ended up getting the punt off pretty well,” Stutts said. “We got it done.”
Pressure comes in many forms. But whether it’s would-be punt blockers running at him or a promising opportunity looming for significant playing time, Stutts seems like he can handle it.
Stutts played in every game last season as a member of the punt protection and extra point/field goal units, but so far his offensive line work has been limited to non-conference games.
Auburn must replace four starters on the offensive line this fall. Stutts wants to be one of them.
Brooks coach Brad Black tries to give former players some space but also likes checking in to hear how they’re doing. He was encouraged by the tone in Stutts’ voice after a recent conversation in which they discussed the upcoming season.
“I felt the confidence when I talked to him the other day,” Black said. “Not cockiness, but confidence.”
Stutts is currently at home in Florence and, like most athletes, doing his best to stay in shape despite the restrictions on workout facilities.
Right now, that’s a lot of running.
“I mean, being an offensive lineman, running’s never fun,” Stutts said. “But it’s something you’ve got to do.”
Black suspects that effort seems to be working, noting Stutts probably weighs around the same “but may be a shirt size or two smaller.”
Black and Stutts had a good conversation recently about some of the other Tigers competing for playing time on the offensive line.
“He kind of knows where he’s at. He understands it’s not going to be easy to do,” Black said.
A first-team all-state offensive lineman in 2016 and 2017, Stutts played on the offensive line in two Auburn games in 2018. That kept him under the four-game threshold, when a season counts toward a player’s years of eligibility. Last season, as a redshirt freshman, he played offensive guard during the fourth quarter of a 52-0 win over Samford.
It’s especially difficult at a place like Auburn for young players to get much playing time, especially when the position features a lot of experienced players.
“I feel like that’s something everybody knows coming in, or should know,” Stutts said. “For me just being able to help out on special teams (matters). I’m cool doing whatever I need to do to help them out.
“It’s exciting to be able to have a chance to get in there and show what I can do.”
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has talked to the team on Zoom, the video conference app, while the team can’t meet in person, Stutts explained. He said position coaches have also talked with the players in smaller groups on the app.
Some of the conversations are about the kind of conditioning players should be doing at home. Others are about how things are going and making sure everyone’s family is OK.
Black said Stutts has a good support system consisting of his mom, sister, grandparents and even people at Brooks who want to see him succeed.
“Everything’s really genuine and the people really do care about you and stuff,” Stutts said of the Auburn coaches. “That makes it so much better.”
Stutts said he seemed to be getting better grades on schoolwork during the pandemic, when he had more time alone to concentrate on it. (He is majoring in sport conditioning and performance.) He will also enroll in summer school.
He is spending his downtime keeping with up with his roommate, offensive lineman Jalil Irvin, and other teammates. He plays video games with teammates and most enjoys a game like called Apex Legends he plays with fellow offensive linemen Brodarious Hamm and Alec Jackson.
“I’m the best on the team in Apex, I know that,” Stutts said. “[But] they got me in Madden.”
In any case, Stutts wants to get back to football. There are few guarantees.
Stutts isn’t assured of major playing time. He isn’t assured of playing in front of 86,000 fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium or similar crowds elsewhere, like in the past. Though Auburn’s president spoke optimistically last week, Stutts isn’t assured of having a football season at all.
But his work to be a great offensive lineman continues, and that much Stutts can control.
Black said if someone asked about Stutts “I wouldn’t tell you he’s 6-5, 330 and can run like a deer.”
“You won’t find a higher character kid than that kid. That’s one of the things that gives him an advantage,” Black said.
Black went on to say he’s not saying other players don’t have high character, too. But he feels good about his former player.
“He’s going to understand what he’s got to do to win it,” Black said.