Young Tight End Looking To 2006 Season

Auburn, Ala.--With Cooper Wallace graduating, the starting tight end spot for the 2006 team will be open.

A pair of highly regarded freshmen who are being redshirted, Gabe McKenzie of Davidson High in Mobile and Tommy Trott from Trinity in Montgomery, will be in the competition for that starting job.

With Wallace being a senior and Cole Bennett a junior, the Auburn coaching staff had the luxury of redshirting the freshmen tight ends to get them big and stronger.

McKenzie says the strength and conditioning workouts with Kevin Yoxall and his staff have helped. He has gained 20 pounds since the summer and now checks in at 240.

"It is some hard stuff, but I came through it so it is all good," says McKenzie, who notes that he is happy with his current size.

"I don't want to gain too much weight," he notes. "I don't think it has slowed me down."

McKenzie says the extra size size has helped him become a more effective blocker as has a fall on the scout team. "It's mainly technique," he notes. "You need to stay low."

Gabe McKenzie is shown during practice this season.

Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges says he is encouraged with the progress he has seen from the freshman. In preseason drills, McKenzie was way behind Trott as far as being consistent on making catches on routine and tough to handle passes. "He has come a long way," Borges says.

During the Orlando bowl practices, McKenzie says that he is trying to set the stage for a strong spring training when he will have a chance to move up the depth chart. "I need to improve my focus, learn the plays and learn what I need to do," he says. "It is basically mental for me. Physically, I am getting there. I just have to work on small stuff."

"I am getting better with my blocking and catching skills," he notes. "I am blocking players like (Marquis) Gunn."

McKenzie is shown in a practice as the Tigers prepare for the Capital One Bowl.

McKenzie worked in the kitchen last summer at Hooter's while getting ready for his first season as an Auburn football player. "It is way different from high school," he says of the college experience. "In high school, you have somebody telling what you need to get ready for class. In college you have to work on your own."

He says fall semester went well in the classroom. He hopes spring semester will be the same way on the field as well as the classroom to set the stage for what could be a productive 2006 season for the talented redshirt freshman.

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