With the season almost here, we're taking a look at previewing the 2016 Auburn Tigers by each position group. The previous entries can be found in this story stream!
Key Losses -
Key Returnees -
Jalen Harris, Chandler Cox, Kamryn Pettway*, Robert Muschamp
Newcomers (includes redshirts) -
Landon Rice, Spencer Nigh
Causes For Optimism
H-Back/FB - Chandler Cox is an absolute beast and could be the person we've been looking for to replace Jay Prosch. He played very well as a true freshman last year and now has more time under his belt. Of course, he may see some time at running back, too. That's where Kamryn Pettway has moved to full-time. I still included him in the list, here, because that versatility could see him on the field in an H-Back position on occasion if needed.
Spencer Nigh is a name to watch out for. Will he play? I don't know. He's 6'0, 272 lbs, a walk-on, and was a monster out in Texas in high school football. He's earned some pretty high praise from coaches and insiders, so there's a chance he could see time this year even as a walk-on true freshman.
Tight ends - Talent and size? Maybe? This is a position that was virtually non-existent last year. Jalen Harris and Chris Laye were on the field at times, but I don't think they were ever targeted with a single pass. That has to change this season. Laye is gone, but Jalen Harris and early enrollee Landon Rice are ready to step up in the Lutzenkirchen/Uzomah role. Some of the Tigers' biggest plays under Malzahn have come from throws to the tight end. With two players who meet the mold of past players at this position, hopefully they get back into the offense.
Causes For Concern
H-back/FB: Not concerned at all. Chandler Cox is more than capable of handling the position.
TE: We didn't see much of what Harris could do last year, and Rice is a true freshman. The TEs have been used in throw-backs and double-move passes to the corner of the end zone under Malzahn. Those are passes we really didn't see thrown last season. We didn't see much of any downfield passing after White got hurt. This position is a huge unknown, and that is the absolute biggest concern.
The H-back spot will be more than fine. We'll start to see a bit more of the TE used, but it's never been a huge part of Gus Malzahn's offense. They will be thrown to in some critical times, though, as Lutzie and Uzomah were. It will be a position similar to the offensive line: we'll have high praise for them when they make a big play, but most of the time we'll probably just forget they're there while they go about the business of doing their job to make the offense roll along effectively.