Enter freshman tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen. Known as more of a receiver than blocker coming out of Lassiter High in Marietta, Ga., Lutzenkirchen has seen spot duty this season behind senior Tommy Trott at tight end. That role could change dramatically on New Year's Day as Lutzenkirchen is expected to see some time in the backfield at the H position, a role he welcomes.
"I love the H-Back role," Lutzenkirchen said. "I feel a lot more comfortable at it. I've worked a lot at tight end so I feel pretty comfortable there too, but I like the H-Back and being able to motion around and kick out (blocks)."
Without the top two options at the position there is a good chance that number 43 will be on the field a good bit when the Tigers face Northwestern at Raymond James Stadium. While he's not sure the extent of his playing time, Lutzenkirchen said he's ready for anything the coaches throw his way.
"I have been working there just in case," Lutzenkirchen said. "I don't really know what the coaches' decision is going to be…I was pumped when the coaches came to me and told me I was going to have the opportunity to play a little bit more."
Without Smith to turn to, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has turned to Lutzenkirchen as one of the guys to possibly fill the void. Learning on the run Malzahn said the freshman has picked things up pretty well and is a natural at the spot.
"He's done a very good job getting used to the physical part of the game," Malzahn said. "He did a lot of that in the summer when he first got here. He's done very well for us in the last couple of weeks.
"For that position we ask a lot, to block and run routes, even vertical routes," Malzahn added. "Philip has that skill set."
Playing sparingly behind Trott, who finished the year with 11 receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns, Lutzenkirchen made his mark in very little playing time. Seeing action in all 12 games, he caught five passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers aren't what the high school all-american hoped for in his first year, but he said he's learned a lot about the game from Trott and he hopes to take his game to another level next season.
"It has gone well," Lutzenkirchen said. "Of course you would hope to play a little bit more because you have those dreams coming out of high school, but I had Tommy in front of me, a redshirt senior who had put in his time. He's done a really good job this year. I'm just having fun learning from him. Hopefully next year I can take his spot."
While Lutzenkirchen may have to wait until next year to take his spot as a full-time starter, Auburn fans may get a sneak preview of the what the freshman can do in less than a week.