A position that didn’t live up to advance billing in 2014 with inconsistencies in blocking throughout the year, Coach Gus Malzahn and the Tigers will have to rely on inexperienced players to get the job done in 2015.
Already with a year under his belt on the Plains, redshirt freshman Chris Laye needs to have a very productive spring for the Auburn offense at the tight end position. At 6-5, 240, Laye will have to be the edge blocker in the running game to help the offense reach its full potential. Needing a year to get bigger and stronger, Laye will get his opportunity this spring to show what he can do as the only scholarship tight end currently on campus and signee Jalen Harris not coming on board until the summer.
The player who has the best opportunity of helping out behind Laye is sophomore Hunter Wood. Earning limited playing time last year, the 6-3, 245 Wood is a physical player who was a standout at Spanish Fort High. With a father who played at Alabama, he is very familiar with big-time college football and has the talent to be a very capable blocker. This spring he will have an opportunity to get plenty of work along with several other walk-ons, including Kyle Sitzler (6-1, 235).
Chris Laye will have a big chance this spring to cement himself in the rotation
In addition to the competition at tight end, Auburn will also have several players in the mix at the fullback/H-Back spot. Coming back after a knee injury cut short his sophomore season, walk-on Gage Batten (6-0, 242) got some experience behind Jay Prosch in 2013 and that should come in handy for him this spring.
He will be joined at the position by Auburn running back signee Kamryn Pettway. Spending much of his first season on the Plains working as a scout team back, Pettway moved to fullback for bowl practices and the move looks to be a great fit for both he and the offense. As a 6-0, 240-pounder at Prattville High School, Pettway was already a powerful blocker for the Lions in addition to his running skills. That combination should make him a fun player to watch in his new role this spring.
A big challenger for playing time at the position this spring should be true freshman Chandler Cox out of Apopka, Fla. The top fullback in the country according to Scout.com, Cox is a 6-3, 235-pounder with the ability to play a number of different roles in the Auburn offense down the road. With the ability to run the ball as well as showing great hands out of the backfield, he could play all three roles for the Tigers. An early start in spring practice should allow the December high school graduate to make an early impact next fall.
Chandler Cox helped Apopka High win the 2014 Florida Class 7A state championship.
Physical and capable of getting to the second level to make his block, Cox should be an immediate impact player for the Tigers on offense. Because of his versatility he could line up outside as more of a tight end and allow Auburn to use he and Pettway together in some sets. That is something to keep an eye on as the Tigers transition to the 2015 offense this spring.