CJ Uzomah, Brandon Fulse
Chris Laye (RS), Kamryn Pettway (RS), Jalen Harris, Chandler Cox
Causes for Optimism
Whew boy, this is tough. Well, Pettway and Cox both looked excellent at the H-Back position in the spring game. Given him another year or two on campus and I can really see Chandler Cox becoming very much like Jay Prosch. Pettway is much more in the mold of Eric Smith from the 2010 team (hopefully without the temper issues).
Pettway redshirted last season, so he's had a year to learn the offense and get comfortable with the system. Cox is only a semester behind, though. He enrolled early and went through spring practice with the team. Both are viable options as run blockers (and runners) and also as pass catchers. They're unproven, but I have high hopes for them.
On the tight-end side, I really don't have the first idea what to expect. Chris Laye redshirted last season, so he has more experience with the offense. Jalen Harris has garnered praise during the preseason, though. I don't know which would start or will be first in (since I think we actually start the Louisville game with an H-Back set) when the Tigers need a traditional tight-end.
Causes for Concern
Not a single one of these players has ever played in an actual college football game. That is very concerning. We know they're all talented, but how will they react to the game atmosphere? This is when we really hope Auburn fans manage to turn the Dome into practically a "home field" to help reduce the opponent fan noise. We have hopes, but we really don't know how they're going to react.
Each position has a red-shirt and a true freshman. I would not be shocked if any of them get the first nod to go on the field against Louisville. There's also the worry of depth. How does Auburn react if one of each goes down with an injury? What if both tight-ends are hurt? Both H-Backs? How will Auburn's offense change or adapt? These are very real concerns that could derail the season.
Or we could just put Braden Smith back in an eligible number and line him up as a Fullback.
Pettway starts the Louisville game. He's more experienced with the offense and I think he's an underestimated threat in his own right. Chandler Cox is, too. I still dream of the double H-Back set, play action pass play where one of them goes out on a wheel route. I don't know what to predict for the two tight-ends, though. I really have heard so little out of camp that I would be pulling a wild guess from my fourth point of contact.
I think the Tigers will be fine. There will be growing pains. Even Jay Prosch didn't adapt immediately to Gus Malzahn's offense. Once he did, he was deadly. Pettway has a big more time in the offense than Prosch had to that point, so he may be ready to roll from day one. Cox is close. The tight-end position will struggle a bit, though, but Auburn rarely uses or needs a traditional tight-end, so that won't cause us too much pain.