Young Tight End Glad to Be Contributing

Gabe McKenzie has already shown he is a promising player two games into his collegiate playing career.

Auburn, Ala.--After year of seasoning, Gabe McKenzie stepped into the spotlight in game two of the 2006 Auburn football season.

The redshirt freshman tight end not only made his first collegiate pass reception, he finished the game with four catches and the opening touchdown in Auburn's 34-0 victory at Mississippi State.

While he says that certainly wasn't what he was expecting as he went into the game as one of the backups to senior Cole Bennett, he says he feels good that the AU coaching staff had enough confidence to call his number on several occasions last Saturday.

"It's fun being out there knowing that your coordinator trusts you being on the field making plays," the 6-4, 255-pounder says. "

Al Borges, who coordinates the Auburn offense, says he wasn't surprised that McKenzie caught four passes for 42 yards vs. the Bulldogs. "He works at it," Borges notes. "He really does. Gabe is a tremendous talent. He just hasn't played a lot. As he plays more he is going to become better and better.

"With his talent, the sky is the limit," Borges adds. "He can become as good as he wants to be. He is that kind of talent."

Auburn's offense is off to a solid start. The Tigers are averaging 37 points per outing and the tight end says he sees no reason why the success can't continue. "With the coordinator we have, the offensive line we have and the skill players we have, I don't see any big obstacles in our way to being successful as an offense."

A standout at Davidson High in Mobile where he was a heavily recruited prospect, McKenzie notes he has gotten bigger and stronger in the past year and is catching the ball much better than when he arrived on the Auburn campus in the summer of 2005.

"I have improved--a lot," he emphasizes. "Last year if I missed a ball I would think, ‘I have to get the next one.' This year I have the mindset that I am going to catch this one, the next one and the next one."

Like many young players at Auburn, McKenzie says he has had to adjust to the intensity level of the game at the SEC level. "When you are in there the camera is on you," he notes. "You can't take a play off. I try to go out there and play full speed every play with good technique."

Next up for McKenzie and the 2-0 Tigers is a home date on Saturday vs. LSU, which is ranked sixth and seventh in the major polls while Auburn is ranked third and fourth. Look for McKenzie to be a contributor in that game whether it is as receiver or blocker. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CDT at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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