Excitement High For Tiger Tight End

Tommy Trott and Gabe McKenzie talk about their progress this August.

Auburn, Ala.—Tommy Trott flourished under Tony Franklin's new offense in the spring and was one of the top playmakers on the offense as a ball-catcher after being called on to block primarily in his first two seasons. Through the first half of preseason practice heading into his junior season, Trott has continued to build on an impressive spring, which he says is a tribute to his new role.

"It changes everything," Trott explains. "Just the excitement about the opportunity to catch more balls and be involved in the offense, the actual movement of the ball, is very exciting. It changes you. Day in and day out you're more into it in practice. You're excited about the opportunity to play and you're excited about making a difference in the offense. During practice you're more focused and trying to make things happen."

Auburn had the first practice of the final two-a-day early Friday morning and will practice again in the afternoon. The second practice will be a walk-through for Saturday's scrimmage and will mark the end of two-a-days for the Tigers with fall semester classes beginning on Aug. 18.

Thursday afternoon was the final practice on the intramural fields with the team moved over to the football complex for the remainder of the season.

"It's good to be off the intramural fields," Trott says. "They're hard as a rock.

"I was moving really well at the beginning of camp," he adds. "The purpose of the first week or week and a half of camp is that it's a grind. They're expecting your legs to get tired. I was in the cold tub two or three times every day. It took a little out of me, but I felt like I was running well. I think I definitely had a better camp than I've had the past couple of years. I felt good out there."

The final two weeks before the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe on Aug. 30 will be used not only for game-plan, but for the offense it'll be about fine-tuning all of the tiny details involved with Franklin's system.

"We could always sharpen up the details," Trott states. "There is a focus every day. (Thursday) was hot feet for receivers and linemen. We've become kind of lazy throughout camp not running our feet and not keeping a good base and chopping them. Every day we're going to sharpen up details. As for the offense, we're still putting in little wrinkles. We put in some different motions so I'm not sure we're completely done."

The team has made it so far without having to run sprints after practice, though the defense has spent time doing some with their position coaches. Trott says the offense has done most of its work toward the beginning of the practice rushing the mesh drills with five footballs, five quarterbacks and five receivers on one play.

"Usually you've only got three guys (receivers) going in the rotation," Trott says. "It happens pretty quick. You do a play and run to the end zone, you jog back, you snap, sit for one play and then you're back up. It's definitely working you."

"The first seven periods of practice are pretty much the hardest part," he continues. "Coach Franklin just thinks we're warming up just throwing balls around. We're out there and we run probably 50 routes the first seven periods of practice. I don't think conditioning is going to be a problem for this offense the way we practice."

A slimmed down Trott has been perhaps the most consistent receiver this August catching the football.

Working at the ‘Y' position, Trott still lines up at the customary tight end position next to the tackle on some plays but also splits off into the slot for others. He's running with the ones while Gabe McKenzie is the second of the tight end types at the position. Tim Hawthorne, a true receiver rather than a tight end, is also working at the ‘Y.'

Trott distanced himself from McKenzie in the spring as the two headed in opposite directions. However, McKenzie has rebounded this fall and is catching the ball better than he did during spring training.

"We had a meeting after the spring," McKenzie explains, "and I didn't have such a good spring. This summer I worked hard–balls early in the morning, just thinking about balls all day–catching them and tucking them all summer." "It made me focus more and work on things that I knew I needed to get better at," he says. "Looking the ball all the way into the tuck, making sure the ball is in my hands before I take off, stuff like that.

"If there's something I know I need to get better at," McKenzie continues, "and there's a coach coming in with a new offense telling me I had to get better at something, it's basically what I had to do. I try to stay consistent and every day I try to keep it in my head."

The ‘Y' position is just one of many on offense with a logjam for playing time.

"This may be the best I've felt about one of our teams since I've been here," Trott says. "We've got some players. The spread is going to open it up and with the way the defense is playing right now, I think we've got a chance to be really good. I know we say that every year and people expect it every year.

"I actually think people are not expecting enough out of this team," he adds. "I believe we're a little underrated. There is talent all over this field and we've got a chance to be really good."

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