With juniors C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse joined by redshirt freshman Ricky Parks, that trio has the potential to make tight end one of the team's better positions even the though the Tigers must replace four-year contributor Philip Lutzenkirchen, who is trying to move on to the NFL.
Brandon Fulse is shown at practice.
"In our offense this position is really important," says Scott Fountain, who is coaching the group this year.
"That guy makes this offense go," Fountain says. "He has to be able to do a lot of things. Those guys are excited about this offense. They are excited about being able to split out some and they are excited to do the stuff inside the box with blocking and running. Really, they are excited about the whole offense."
Fountain is very familiar with the offensive system having worked with Malzahn for three years while serving as Auburn's director of football operations, an assignment that required him to be in touch with what was happening on offense, defense and special teams as well as recruiting.
While Fountain notes he enjoyed what he did as part of Gene Chizik's staff, he is fired up about returning to his roots as an on the field coach. "I am really excited about that," he says. "I had always been on the field in the past so it feels more natural to me. I am looking forward to getting started with spring ball."
Malzahn had tried to hire the native of East Brewton, Ala., as an on the field coach for Arkansas State. In addition to being at Auburn, Fountain has coached at Florida State, Iowa State, Middle Tennessee State, Georgia Southern and Central Florida after getting his start in the Alabama high school ranks.
Fountain's move to an on the field position happened after running backs coach Rich Bisaccia took a job with the Dallas Cowboys, prompting Malzahn to move tight ends coach Tim Horton to the running backs spot, an assignment he had been doing for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
C.J. Uzomah has the potential to have a breakout season in 2013.
Uzomah, who was mainly a quarterback in high school, looks like he has found his home at tight end with the Tigers. Last season he caught seven passes for 136 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers are expected to jump this fall because the junior has excellent size, solid speed, good hands and a desire to be a standout performer.
Fulse is more a traditional wide-body tight end. He caught just one pass for eight yards last year, but has the potential to do much better.
Ricky Parks was a highly-regarded prospect when he signed with Auburn last year.
Like Uzomah, Parks was a quarterback in high school and like both Fulse and Uzomah he is a big target in the six-foot-four-inch range.
Commenting on what the focus will be with his group this spring, Fountain says, "It is going to be important for me to teach them all of the different movements because we move those guys around a lot. We will work on the basics of running routes, pass blocking, run blocking and catching the football. If we can do those things, and do them well, I will be pretty happy."
"I think Jay will be more of a box fullback while the other three have more of a chance to do the H-back/fullback and tight end role," says Fountain, who adds, "The more flexible our guys can be the better."
In addition to his duties with the tight ends, Fountain is the special teams coordinator. "I know we will spend quality time on that this spring," he says. "It is a real important part of the game."