The Tigers look like they will be strong at the position with the return of Jake Slaughter for his senior season.
At the second major scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, Slaughter didn't run the ball or make a catch, but played a significant role in helping the tailbacks have a productive scrimmage.
"I realize my role is mostly going to be blocking, but I have talked to Coach Borges (offensive coordinator Al Borges) and Coach Gran (running backs coach Eddie Gran) and they said they will probably pass the ball to me more this season," Slaughter says. "They tried to do that in the first scrimmage, but couldn't get the ball to me."
At 6-2, 241 pounds, Slaughter has found a home at fullback after also splaying linebacker and defensive end earlier in his collegiate years. He arrived at AU in the fall of 2001 after a standout season as a fullback and linebacker for Brentwood, Tenn., Academy.
He was an effective receiver in high school and hopes he will get a chance to show that part of his game as a senior. "I think I will get a few shots to catch the ball if I don't run the ball, but I realize I was mostly meant for blocking and I have no problem with it," he says.
In 2002, following a redshirt season, Slaughter saw game action at both linebacker and fullback, but didn't have an opportunity to run the football. He had three carries for for 15 yards and caught a pass for for 13 yards in 2003 as a backup to Brandon Johnson.
Last season, with Ronnie Brown splitting time between tailback and fullback, Slaughter carried the football just one time for no gain. However, he was an important part of the 13-0 season with his blocking, which improved as the season progressed.
Based on his first two scrimmages of the spring, he may be an even better blocker in 2005. He has been especially good making the difficult lead block on toss sweeps.
"When I have a chance to get on the corner and get on somebody real good I like to be as physical as I can be and I try to get a few pancakes," Slaughter says. "That is always fun."
Slaughter is shown at spring practice last week.
Slaughter says he believes the offense made progress in the second week of spring practice and that showed in the second scrimmage on Saturday. "Overall, I think we started off fast and I think we did pretty well," he says. "I think we did a good job of putting it in the end zone. We were excited and I thought we went out there and got after it."
Slaughter says butting heads with the Auburn defense is a challenge at every practice. "It is definitely one of the fastest defenses I have seen, especially on the defensive line with Stanley (McClover) and Quentin Groves," he says. "They have had a lot of injuries with defensive tackles and linebackers this spring, which has hurt them a lot. That is why I think we are doing so well against them. They are definitely one of the fastest defenses I have played against and you have to adjust to them."
Auburn's coaches are expecting Slaughter to have his best season and the senior doesn't disagree with that assessment. "I have been doing this for two or three years so I know what I am doing," he says. "I am confident in what I can do and what I am doing."
The Tigers have five spring practices left, including Saturday's annual spring game. Kickoff for A-Day is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Slaughter says he has several areas of his game he will emphasize in the final spring practices. "I am going to continue to work on catching the ball and moving my hips, agility-wise," he says. "Other than than I will work on my assignments and technique and try to get better and better."
Quarterback Brandon Cox says he appreciates having the veteran in the backfield. "In this offense, the fullback isn't going to get a lot of carries," Cox notes. "We have run a lot of out personnel, which is our two running backs (two tailbacks). When Jake is in there he is a great blocker and he knows what he is doing. He played a lot last year and he has done great this spring. I look forward to him playing in the fall because he is a leader and he knows what he is doing."