Auburn, Ala.--One of the biggest holes on Auburn’s offense the last two seasons has been the combination of the H-Back/fullback/tight end spots in Gus Malzahn’s scheme. With Jay Prosch handling the duties for the Tigers in the backfield and the combination of C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse on the edge, Auburn didn’t have much production out of the spots in terms of actual use, but what they did for the offense in terms of blocking was a big reason for the Tigers’ success.
With sophomores Kamryn Pettway and Chandler Coxback after learning on the run last season along with tight end Jalen Harris, Auburn’s options are much better this spring as the Tigers head into the 2016 season. Throw in true freshman tight end Landon Rice and the group has plenty of potential to make a big impact next season.
In Malzahn’s scheme that starts with running the football, something that Pettway and Cox both did plenty of in high school before turning into blockers a year ago. That was something that both had to get used to during the year, but now with experience and added strength and size, the duo is beginning to show what they can do said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.
“That may be one of the brightest spots,” Lashlee said. “We knew those guys were really good and fit that position well. Chandler was a true freshman last year. Did a solid job, but some instances he was a little underwhelmed with his size. I'm seeing a different kid. He brings great energy every day. He's one of those guys who doesn't have bad days. But just from a physicality standpoint, and making some plays, he's very comfortable now. He's a little heavier. You can see him taking that next step to being the kind of player we thought he could be.
“It's the same way with Kamyrn Pettway. He's a load. He's a load when he's got the ball. He's a load blocking. He's a really good athlete. Both of those guys bring a lot of versatility for us. They're not the tallest guys, but they're big, they're strong, they're physical and they're instinctive. They both can run the ball. Kamyrn Pettway was a running back in high school. They snapped the dadgum thing to Chandler and let him run all over people, so they've got the versatility.”
Pettyway and Cox both played through the mistakes and learning a season ago, something that Harris and Rice may have to do this coming season. Playing very little last season as a true freshman, Harris at least got his feet wet at the tight end spot but much of the action at the position was handled by offensive tackles such as Robert Leff and Will Adams.
Rice is a young player that graduated high school early and is getting a head start on his college career. With the size and athleticism to help out right away, the Under Armour All-American has done some good things early in his first spring and needs to continue to improve because both he and Harris are going to be counted on heavily when the Tigers take the field next season.
“Jaylon having a year under his belt, he's bigger,” Lashlee said. “I think he's learning to play with a little more of the weight now. We're using a tight end a whole lot more in practice now. We know we need to. We want to. He's done some good things. Landon, for a guy who has had seven practices and should be in high school right now, is doing a nice job.
“His head is spinning, but you can see the ability that once he puts it all together, he's going to really help us. And that's something we've missed. Obviously, back when we had Lutz (Philip Lutzenkirchen), we had C.J., that's something we missed the last year, year and a half. Hopefully, those guys can really add some value there for us. And they've done a good job so far.”