Auburn, Ala.-- Auburn sophomore tight end Jalen Harris knew his time was coming. Seeing his role increase with every game in the Tigers’ offense, that first career catch was getting closer to becoming a reality.
The Montgomery native made his first opportunity pay off in a big way as his 15-yard touchdown reception from Sean White late in the third quarter gave Auburn a 27-22 lead on the way to a 40-29 win on the road in Oxford.
“It means a lot knowing that was to take the lead,” Harris said. “Our defense came out there, they scored one more, but our defense came out there and stopped them and we ran with it after that.”
Playing a very limited role a season ago, Harris has stepped up his play the last two weeks in the offense and the results have shown on the field. Becoming a better blocker at the point of attack, he has put himself in a position for more playing time down the road.
He wasn’t sure when that first opportunity to catch a pass would come, however, but on Saturday night there he was. Wide open after Ole Miss bit on the special “fight song” play from Auburn, Harris said it seemed like the ball would never get to him but when he did he snared it and it was smooth sailing for the score.
“It did, I’m not going to lie,” Harris said when asked if it seemed like the ball took forever to get to him. “But it was routine. We do that every day in practice so it was nothing new really.”
The touchdown toss was the only one of the game for White on a night when he completed 15-22 passes for 247 yards and also ran for 27 tough yards, including a pair of key runs on third downs. Currently 12th in the nation in pass efficiency and eighth in completion percentage at 68.5 percent, White has continued to improve and Harris said that’s not a surprise.
“He’s one of the better quarterbacks in the SEC right now and he’s proving that every week,” Harris said. “He’s a leader, everyone is a leader on our team it feels like. We all have say-so in the huddle, and we all just keep each other poised and calm.”
Now 6-2 and on a five-game winning streak, Auburn’s offense is third nationally in rushing yards and because of that the tight end has a chance to become an even bigger part of things down the stretch this season. Harris said that’s something he’s ready for if and when the time comes.
“My blocking has really improved,” the sophomore said. “It’s just being confident in my blocking and as my blocking seems to get better my role on the team will continue to increase because they’ll find so many different things to do with me.”