With starting tight end Cooper Wallace limited in practice so far this preseason with a sore hamstring, the coaches are looking for a player who catch the football and add depth to the position.
"We're just looking for some help this year at tight end," Coach Tommy Tuberville says. "Octavious looks good catching the ball. His head's spinning, but he's working overtime with (tight ends) Coach (Steve) Ensminger. We're giving him the crash course."
One of Balkcom's goals coming into his true freshman season was to play immediately and avoid the redshirt workouts. He was buried on the depth chart at linebacker but will have a strong chance to contribute this season at tight end.
"I feel pretty good about tight end," says Balkcom, who notes that he is up to 6-4, 240 pounds. "It's all right for me. I played tight end in high school and when I came here they were looking at me for tight end, defensive end or linebacker so I didn't really get upset when they made the change."
Last season the coaches used offensive linemen Steven Ross and Ben Grubbs at tight end for their blocking skills during run situations. Balkcom predicts that he will be used more for pass catching than blocking. "My hands are pretty good," he explains. "My senior year I had six touchdowns and 200 yards receiving. I need to work on my blocking a little bit."
Balkcom is shown at an all-star game after his senior high school season.
With Auburn's season opener against Louisiana-Monroe less than two weeks away, Balkcom may not be ready to contribute at his new position by the time the season starts. "We're not looking for him to know everything (about the offense), but we'd like for him to know a little bit about what we're doing," Tuberville says. "As we go along through the season, maybe he'll catch on more and more. But he looks pretty good."
Tuberville adds that Balkcom, who played last season for Early County High School in Blakely, Ga., will likely return to the defensive side of the ball next season.