Don’t ask me what Auburn wants at H-Back (known as the 3-back in Gus vernacular) because I got no idea. Arguably, it’s been its most effective when used as a modern day fullback ala Jay Prosch and Chander Cox. But at Tulsa, Charles Clay put up 1,000+ yards receiving from that position while also being a threat in the run game. That was the pitch to land Harold Joiner in last year’s class. This cycle, however, it appeared Auburn might be going more in the Clemson direction and using someone with more of a tight end skillset at that spot by signing two talented prospects in 3* Luke Deal and 3* Tyler Fromm.
So honestly there’s no better fit for this hard to decipher position than Mr. Jay Jay Wilson. Once a 4* prospect out of California, Wilson signed with the Sun Devils in the 2015 class where he began his career as a tight end. As a sophomore, Wilson caught 4 passes for 81 yards and 3 touchdowns.
But with constant coaching turnover it appears no one was quite sure how to use Wilson’s unique skillset. He flipped over to linebacker in 2017 where he recorded 47 tackles, 4 TFL and 2 sacks in 11 games. He also had a pick 6 against Utah that season before returning to the offensive side of the ball this past year. An injury plus a one game suspension resulted in Wilson allowing to preserve a redshirt season and play his final year elsewhere.
Per AuburnUndercover’s Brandon Marcello, that elsewhere will be on the Plains in 2019.
Wilson is expected to compete with a wide range of characters at the 3-back spot this spring. Spencer Nigh, Harold Joiner, Luke Deal and possibly Tyler Fromm are all potential competitors. With Deal expected to miss time recovering from an ACL injury, Fromm more than likely playing more at the 5 or Big Slot position and Joiner possibly working more at running back, it seems very likely Wilson will be a starter for the Tigers in 2019.
So what does Wilson bring to Auburn’s offense? I plan to dig more into this at a later point after I can watch more of his games but first take, honestly a little of everything. In 2016, when Wilson spent most of his time on offense, he lined up all over the field for the Sun Devils. Below is a nice video highlighting all his snaps against Washington that year which also happens to be the time Chip Lindsey was calling plays.
The first thing that should jump out is how big this dude appears to be. Listed at 6’3” 250 lbs, Wilson will definitely bring some size to Auburn’s backfield in 2019. However, he appears to move well at that size though he’s probably not burning anyone for 40+ yard touchdowns. As a blocker, there’s potential though he seemed to struggle (at least in this clip) when it came to leading inside on Iso Zone runs or pulling on Counters to fit on his man. Both are concepts Auburn uses plenty. But when asked to chip on DEs or make a block in space I thought he did a solid job of opening up opportunities for his backs. I don’t think Auburn is getting another Jay Prosch in a ready made beast for this system but I do think they are getting a tremendous athlete with some unique potential.
Wilson gives Auburn 17 commits in the 2019 class with only he and 5* WR George Pickens currently unsigned. I expect that list to grow by one more in the very near future when another possible 3-back commits in 2* LB Kameron Brown. While the QB battle will take up most of the airwaves this offseason, what Auburn plans to do to replace Chandler Cox might be just as intriguing. It seems likely Wilson will be the man to step into those shoes but how he will be used will be very interesting to watch in the 2019 campaign.
War Eagle Jay Jay!