The 6-0, 220-pound redshirt sophomore is smiling a lot more days now that he is back in the offensive backfield where he made a name for himself as a high school standout in Huntsville. He looked anything but comfortable last season as he tried to break into the playing rotation in the secondary, at inside linebacker and later at wide receiver.
It wasn't until the coaches moved him to scout team running back in midseason last year that Horn actually began to play like an SEC-caliber football player. In his first chance to show what he could do in game action as a college running back, he played well against a strong Georgia Military College defense in a junior varsity game. The Auburn coaches studied that video carefully and decided to give the redshirt sophomore a serious look at fullback this spring.
Victor Horn is running well this spring and is improving his blocking.
The former Huntsville High star returned to campus this week to put the finishing touches on what has personally been a very productive spring training. "My father told me he could tell I am getting the ball more in practice," Horn says with a smile. "He told me, ‘I can tell because there is a little more pep in your step.' It has been a good spring."
Head coach Tommy Tuberville agrees with the redshirt sophomore that this has been a good spring for the running back. "Victor Horn has done real well," Tuberville says. "He has moved up the depth chart and made a move to get a lot of playing this year. He has always had the ability. It is like anything else with a young guy coming in and learning the new ropes. We have probably been unfair to him. We have played him in a lot of positions. He has been the universal man. I think he has found a place where he can play. We are going play him at fullback, tailback and special teams."
Horn admits that he was "frustrated" last season and considered transferring when he was not making any progress moving up the depth chart on defense or at wide receiver. However, he says there is a good side to a less than favorable experience. "At the same time, I learned from it," he says. "It helped me with my character and it helped me be humble and patient. Right now, I am getting a chance to prove what I could do."
The running back originally signed with the Tigers in 1999, but he did not qualify academically and spent the following season at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. He played defensive back and running back there and took care of his academics so he could transfer to Auburn for the 2000 season where he was redshirted. He got looks at rover and whip in the old defensive system under John Lovett. He then was tried at inside linebacker before being moved to wide receiver just before the start of the 2001 season. He did not make the playing rotation and was relegated to the scout team. However, he used that assignment to catch the coaching staff's eyes with good work as a running back trying to simulate the look the Tiger defense would be getting from the next opponent.
With expected starter Brandon Johnson sidelined this spring after having shoulder surgery, Horn has really been able to shake out the rust at running back while learning Auburn's new system. He and senior Michael Owens have been receiving plenty of work at fullback and are neck in neck for the number one spot in new coordinator Bob Petrino's offense although Johnson, a junior, is the heavy favorite to be the top fullback when two-a-days start in August.
"Even if I don't come out as a starter I feel comfortable where I am right now because I know I still have three years after spring," Horn says. "There is a chance for me to get better at the fullback position and take over a leadership role."
To have a better chance to challenge Johnson, Horn needs to grow bigger. Unfortunately, he has been going the other way during spring drills. He has dropped six pounds since the first of March when spring training began. "I weigh 220 now and I want to get up to 230 or 235," Horn says. "I plan to eat more and workout a lot this summer."
Horn says that his success this spring has inspired him to work harder than ever. "My confidence is up now and I feel like they are relying on me to execute and help the team. I feel like I have a job to do."
The fullback and the rest of the Tigers will be on public display this Saturday at the annual A-Day Game. The kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium. If the spring game is similar to the practices, look for a low scoring contest with the defense making most of the big plays. "Offense is always going to be more complicated to learn than defense so the defense should be ahead," Horn says. "Right now, I think we are doing fine and we are going to get better as everybody gets on the same page and we get better on our execution."
Tiger Ticket Extra: In the third scrimmage of the spring, Horn got to show his moves at tailback. "They threw me a pitch and I think the coaches were impressed with my run," Horn says. He nearly went the distance, showing good speed to the corner before just stepping on the sideline in what was close to a very long run. "I wish I had got it in the end zone," Horn says...Petrino has shown in spring drills that his offense will feature the fullback as a receiver and Horn has shown that he can handle that role. He predicts that against certain defenses, the fullbacks could be primary receivers...Horn says that running backs coach Eddie Gran has given him a couple of points of emphasis to work on as he prepares for the 2002 season. "They want me to stay low when I am going through the hole and finish out my blocks," Horn says. "If I do that, they say I will do fine at fullback."