Fortunately for the Tigers came the move of running back Kamryn Pettway to the position along with the signing of early high school graduate Chandler Cox, giving Auburn two players who have already shown they can play the game at a high level in spring practice.
“At tight end we don’t have a lot of depth there, but at three-back I have been real pleased with Kamryn Pettway and Chandler Cox,” Fountain said. “Two freshmen, one being a true freshman and the other being a redshirt freshman who played a different position last year, they have really stood out. We also have a kid named Kennon Sweeney at three-back as well.”
The move for Pettway from running back to the three-back role in Auburn’s offense wasn’t a surprise after he failed to make a move in the rotation for Coach Tim Horton last fall and asked to get an opportunity at the new spot. Giving him a look during bowl practices, Fountain said Pettway showed the physicality and want-to that the coaches are looking for in that role.
“We were very impressed with him in bowl practice and so this spring we decided to make it a full-time move,” Fountain said. “It was really a good move for us. When we signed him we thought he could be a big back for us or maybe a three-back, we didn’t know. After the first year we thought we would give it a shot.
"The thing he brings to that position is toughness, which you like, sort of that Jay Prosch mentality. I think Chandler Cox is the same thing. Pettway also has the athleticism of a running back, which is neat to have at that position.”
Athleticism is the key word when talking about Cox. Playing wildcat quarterback, running back, blocking back, linebacker and safety during his senior season at Apopka High as the Blue Darters won Florida's Class 8A state title, Cox is a player Fountain said has already shown he is ready for the next level and that is not a surprise with a brother at New Mexico State and a father that played for USC. With a need at his position Cox will definitely be on the field early said his position coach.
“He’ll play for us, there is no doubt in my mind that he and Pettway both will,” Fountain said. “The thing I like about him and Pettway both is that they both have that Jay Prosch mentality as a blocker, but they are both pretty good athletes that are used to having the ball in their hands. They had their hands on the ball quite a lot in high school and that is kind of a dimension we haven’t had at that position.”
Kamryn Pettway is a physical blocker with the skills of a running back
The ability to play Pettway and Cox at the same time in different offensive sets could be important this year with Laye still working to become physical enough for the Tigers at the tight end spot. While Auburn will use the two H-Backs at the same time in some spots, Fountain said at times they will need a true tight end and that is where Laye steps in.
“Chris is a guy we brought here to mainly be a blocking tight end for us,” Fountain said. “He has made some strides this spring and we’ve been pleased with some of the things he’s done, but for him his true position is going to be a hand-down tight end.
“He has made some strides, but he’s going to have to help us in some kind of role this fall for sure,” he added of Laye. “We only have one tight end on scholarship and Jalen (Harris) coming in will give us two. He will be in a position to help us some this year, he’s going to have to be.”
Chris Laye has gotten bigger and stronger in the last year at Auburn.
Auburn’s second scholarship tight end, St. James’ standout Jalen Harris is scheduled to be on campus at the end of May and will need every day with strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell if he’s to be ready to play in the fall for the Tigers. Still around 230 pounds at the moment on his 6-5 frame, Harris will at least be familiar with the scheme when he gets in and that’s a positive, Fountain pointed out.
“With Jalen the positive is that last year they fully implemented our offense at St. James so he played a lot of three-back and a lot of true tight end split-out,” Fountain said. “That part of it won’t be a big adjustment for him. I think more or less the adjustment coming from high school to college is going to be his biggest thing. How quick can he make that transition? Chandler, in practice, has done that. Jalen, if he can make that big of a jump, will be a big help for us.”