Football Walk-on Having Solid Spring for AU

Auburn, Ala.--Spring training is the time for walk-ons to catch the attention of Auburn's football coaching staff and a wide receiver who has been in the program for three years is trying to make a move to earn playing time this fall.

Charles Olatunji, a 6-2, 185-pound rising senior from Brookwood High in Lilburn, Ga., has shown good hands and the ability to get open running pass routes in Auburn's new spread offense.

"Charles has always been a good football player for us," Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville says. "He just hasn't been able to get enough reps. A good spring practice is going to be very important for him. It will give him a chance to show the coaches what he can do.

"So far he has done pretty well," Tuberville adds. "He is catching the ball well and he is a tall receiver, and we don't have many tall guys, and that is a big positive for him."

Olatunji, who caught four passes in Auburn's first spring scrimmage, says, "I am just taking advantage of my opportunity and try to make myself better out here."

A high school receiver and defensive back, Olatunji is playing outside receiver in AU's spread offense that requires more receiver depth than the previous West Coast system the Tigers used. With several scholarship receivers sidelined with injuries, Olatunji has received a significant amount of work in practice this spring and has stepped up his level of play.

"Coach (Greg) Knox gave me the opportunity to walk on and I would like to thank him for that opportunity," Olatunji says. "Right now I am just trying to get some playing time.

"I have definitely gotten better as a receiver," the walk-on says. "Coach Knox has been a great coach for me and is giving me a great shot."

Olatunji says his goal is to continue to work hard this spring. Commenting on what he needs to do to be successful, the receiver says, "Stay in the film room, listen to coaching and just watching the guys in front of me and paying attention to the seniors and other older guys. Even though I am senior, I am still trying to learn from guys like Rod (Rodgeriqus Smith)."

Charles Olatunji (21) runs a pass route against sophomore cornerback Ryan Williams.

Knox, who is coaching the outside receivers, says he likes what he is seeing from Olatunji. "He is doing well and working hard," Knox notes. "He tries to do all of the little things right. He tries to do everything you ask him to do. He is getting better, which is what a guy in his position has got to do. He has to do all of the little things that impresses the coaches and he is doing it so far."

The Auburn coach says he likes to see a hard-working walk-on like Olatunji have success. "He is a kid who has been in the program for a while," Knox points out. "He has some experience and he works hard and that is the biggest key for a walk-on--he has to work, he has to out-work his opponent."

Kodi Burns, who is currently leading the competition to replace Brandon Cox as the starting quarterback, has noticed the good spring that Olatunji is having.

"He has proven that he can catch the ball," Burns says. "He has shown up big time. Now that he is making plays, guys are looking at him a little differently and having confidence in him."

Olatunji knows that it is important to have the QBs belief in his ability to make plays. "Gaining the trust of the quarterbacks is one big thing I have tried to do this spring," the senior says. "I think I have gained a little bit, but I don't feel like I am totally there yet, but I am getting there."

Helping him get there is a combination of height and athletic ability. "I try to use my size a lot against the smaller defensive backs," says Olatunji, who notes that he likes spread offense being installed by new coordinator Tony Franklin. "I have never run the spread before so it is totally new to me," he says. "I like it. There is the opportunity to get the ball in my hands and make some plays."

To make sure he is ready if called on to handle extended playing time in an offense that is expected to average 80-plus plays per game, the walk-on notes he has been working hard in the strength and conditioning program directed by Kevin Yoxall. With Auburn's up-tempo offensive system, it is more important than ever that the wide receivers be in good physical shape.

"Coach Yox is putting us through a great offseason program," Olatunji says. "We definitely understand what it takes to play in this offense."

Majoring in exercise science, Olatunji was recruited by Division I-AA and Division II programs coming out of high school, but decided to try to walk on to play SEC football. "I don't know why I picked Auburn," he says. "I guess it was I just liked the atmosphere here and the games. I really wasn't an Auburn fan growing up, but when I came here I really liked it."

Olatunji has just one more season to try to break into the playing rotation. "I will graduate next year and I plan on probably going to graduate school and earn my masters in physical therapy," he says.

Olatunji and his teammates were scheduled to have their second major scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, but that session has been called off due to inclement weather in the forecast.

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