It’s been a tight end heavy past few days here at College&Magnolia. Last Monday, 3-star tight end Landen King committed to the Tigers. On Wednesday, I explored why Auburn has suddenly prioritized signing tight ends. Today, it all culminates in a simple question for the 2020 season. Can a single Auburn tight end produce 250+ receiving yards?
At first glance, it seems almost impossible. CJ Uzomah, arguably Gus Malzahn’s best tight end on the Plains, had a career best 154 yards in 2013. Phillip Lutzenkirchen is the last Auburn tight end to cross the 200 yards receiving mark doing so in 2011. But even he didn’t reach 250. So how is there even a debate?
Well a quick review of tight end production under Chad Morris suddenly makes this a much more intriguing question.
Tight End Production Under Chad Morris
Four tight end have crossed the 250 yard receiving mark under Chad Morris. Two more came just yards short of doing so as well. All but two put up better years than Uzomah’s career best in 2013. Put simply, expect more tight end usage in the near future.
But how far away is that future?. Thankfully, your brilliant C&M contributors are on the case to provide their insight on today’s topic. Over/under 250 receiving yards for a single Auburn tight end this fall.
I am as a bullish on this Auburn passing offense as any member of the AU internet but even my homerism has limits. While I fully expect the tight end to become much more involved in Auburn’s passing attack, I am skeptical we see a huge jump in production this fall. The Tigers returns their three leading receivers from last season. They also have a loaded backfield with playmakers that can make an impact in the passing game as well. I am also not certain Auburn has a “guy” at this position just yet and expect tight end receiving production to be spread out over 2-3 players. I am taking the under pretty confidently.
I’m definitely on board for Auburn using the tight end more this season, and with Auburn’s recent recruiting at the position, it’s clear the position has become a priority. Auburn has signed four TE/H-back’s in the last two seasons (Luke Deal, Tyler Fromm, JJ Pegues, Brandon Frazier), plus taking Jay Jay Wilson as a transfer and going heavy in the tight end market in 2021.
All of this to say, it would be a huge disappointment if Auburn didn’t use the position in the passing game with Chad Morris calling the shots. To go along with the players mentioned at the top, CJ O’Grady led Arkansas in receptions each of Morris’s two years in Fayetteville. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that YES, a tight end will get to 250 yards for Auburn this year. I’m not brave enough to guess who it might be, though.
Historically, Auburn’s numbers from tight ends are horrendous. The only TE that appears anywhere respectable in the career stats is Philip Lutzenkirchen for touchdown receptions. Auburn has put plenty of TEs into the League (Ed West, Walter Reeves, Fred Baxter, CJ Uzomah), but none of them really tore it up at Auburn.
That changes in 2020. The play-caller obviously values the position, and I think John Samuel Shenker has already proved himself to be a valuable red zone target. I think he just barely breaks the 250-yard barrier, but I’ll go out on a limb and say he finishes second on the team in receiving touchdowns.
Auburn fans have been screaming “Throw it to the tight end!” since I was a little kid going to Auburn games with my dad. Fast forward to today, they’re still doing it. It looks like Auburn's coaching staff is going out of its own way to show the Auburn fan base that it means business when it comes to throwing to the tight end in 2020 and beyond but I don’t see one guy stepping up at the position.
It seems to good to be true for Auburn to field a tight end to get over 250 yards through the air. If they have one in 2020, John Samuel Shenker is the best bet. Gus Malzahn put Shenker on the field last year and loved his ability to block down field. That mindset will get him opportunities due to being on the field more but I don’t think he will make that big of a splash in the passing game to cross the 250-yard threshold.
The work was done above, Chad Morris has had a pretty good track record of getting the tight end involved in the passing game. I think one of my lasting memories of a Morris-led offense is Dwayne Allen and Tajh Boyd connecting 7 times for 80 yards and a touchdown in the 2011 Auburn-Clemson matchup. Perhaps that’s skewing my perception of this question, but it leads me to hit the Over button on this poll.
On the other hand, Auburn and tight ends don’t really go well together lately. Aside from the occasional safety valve or the complete change of pace play, we haven’t used them. In a handful of memorable plays, even the good gains weren’t as great as they could’ve been. Phillip Lutzenkirchen fell down on his way to a sure touchdown in Glendale, and I can’t get Cooper Wallace flat out fumbling a ball on his way into the end zone back in the early 2000s. However, it’s changing this year. I think we’re going to see John Samuel Shenker make an impact as a versatile player with his blocking skills leading to a much more open alley for him to be Bo Nix’s guy in the middle of the field.
You guys have heard that Auburn is the new TE U, haven’t you??” With the passing attack opening up this year and Chad Morris recruiting several Tight Ends, I think we will see a rise in TE production this season and I think 250 yards is doable.
Some optimism amongst the C&M braintrust that 2020 shall be the “Year of the Tight End”. Now we pose the question to the wise members of this community. Tell us, are you taking the over or the under in regards to an Auburn tight end eclipsing 250 receiving yards this fall?
Over/under 250 receiving yards for a single Auburn tight end this fall
This poll is closed