As the 2012 Auburn team prepares for the season, I think there are reasons to believe the tight ends will be a big part of what the offense is doing this year with new coordinator Scot Loeffler calling the shots. With an outstanding player like Philip Lutzenkirchen to throw the football to this fall it makes sense to get it in his hands early and often, week after week.
When I coached at Auburn I was fortunate to be around a lot of outstanding tight ends. They were a big part of what we did. In hindsight, I wish we would have made then an even bigger part of what we did in the passing game because defending the tight end and fullback as receivers can be tough for a defense to do if it is facing a strong running attack.
Almost every player who started for us at the position went on to the National Football League. Ed West, Walter Reeves, Fred Baxter and Ron Middleton had long careers in the NFL and Jeff Parks played a few years. Frank Thomas, who played tight end for us before deciding to concentrate on baseball, would have been as good or better than all of them. Of course, his baseball career worked out rather well, too, since he is a guy who could be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Philip Lutzenkirchen was named a preseason All-SEC tight end for the 2012 Auburn Tigers.
Tight end is a special position and the way coaches use tight ends today make them more valuable than ever.
I remember being on a Nike sponsored trip with Bill Walsh, who was a great coach with the San Francisco '49ers. He was coaching at Stanford at that time and I told him I admired the job he did with the West Coast Offense he developed. I also told him that I thought he did an outstanding job with his team's defense, too. He looked at me and said, "Yes, and we either led the NFL or were in the top two or three in rushing."
He told me that when he took over as head coach at Stanford he took the best big athlete on his team and put him at fullback. That year it was a defensive tackle. He said he took the next best big athlete and put him at tight end because if you can't run the ball to the tight end side you can't run it to the weakside either.
Coach Loeffler is fortunate to have a group of big, good-looking athletes at tight end to work with this year. In addition to Lutzenkirchen, Brandon Fulse and C.J. Uzomah impressed me in the spring. They could play a lot this year as the Tigers line up with two or even three tight ends on the field at the same time. Auburn is certainly not alone in this regard. Look for several of the top teams in the SEC to do the same thing this year.
If you have a 260-pound or 270-pound tight end who is a good athlete and can run, he can make your offense much more physical, which is a very good thing, especially dealing with the athletic defenses in the SEC.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.