Auburn, Ala.--Going without a single catch as a true freshman, Auburn tight end Jalen Harris got a pair of opportunities last season and made them both pay off for touchdowns. Now with new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey on board, the Montgomery native is hoping for bigger and better things at the position heading into the 2017 season.
Under the guidance of his new position coach, Larry Porter, the 6-5, 254 Harris has seen a shift in the way the tight ends were used this spring and notes that he likes being "busier" at practice.
“I'm doing a lot of tight end, lot of sprint-out, lot of H-back so I've been getting a lot of work," he said. "Coach Porter has been coaching me hard with Coach Lindsey so it's been a good spring."
While the expectations are for more action at the position and more use of the tight ends/H-backs the offense, Lindsey noted that it is up to Harris and newcomer Sal Cannella, a transfer from junior college, to show the coaches they deserve playing time.
Harris said that he believes he is up the challenge and noted that the changes in the offense fit him well because he feels like he’s able to play any role they need.
“I think I can work in any offense," Harris said. "I can work in a two-tight end offense. I can work in a 11-type offense with twins. It’s good just to be versatile, and I think that will help me out at the next level."
Something else that could help Harris take a step forward is having two years of experience under his belt. While much of that came last season as a sophomore, he is now an older and wiser tight.
"I feel like I'm a lot more settled down,” he said. “Everything is just trying to get slowed down and I'm maturing. I'm letting the game come to me and I'm not as overwhelmed in practice or in games now."
A big question that remains is how much Harris and Cannella will be involved in the passing game in the fall?
“At the end of the day you build an offense around your playmakers and if your tight ends are in your top three to five playmakers, they’re going to catch balls,” Lindsey said. “That’s the way it works. If not, you’re going to get the ball to the guys that can score. There have been years we’ve had tight ends in places I’ve been that have been really effective and there has been other years they haven’t.
“I think the more versatile we can be with our tight ends and development, and let those guys work at the different spots, I only think it’s going to help us," the offensive coordinator added. "We will evaluate the offense and see where we are and who our playmakers are and how we can get them the ball and the chips will kind of fall where they do.”