AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn and Chip Lindsey said all offseason Auburn football would use the tight end more in its offense this fall.
After eight games, the two coaches say that’s true — it’s just not showing up in the box score.
“Really, to be honest with you, we’ve probably played more with a tight end so far this year than we have the two previous years now,” Malzahn said Wednesday on the SEC coaches teleconference. “It’s not coming up as far as the catches are concerned, but the way that they’re blocking and the different things they’re doing, I think they’re doing a super job.”
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Auburn has used more formations with the tight end in 2017 than it had in the last few seasons under Malzahn. In recent weeks, the Tigers have repeatedly gone to a formation that features two wide receivers, one H-back, one tight end and one running back.
Jalen Harris has gotten most of Auburn’s traditional tight end reps, with former offensive lineman Tucker Brown playing behind him. H-back Chandler Cox has lined up at tight end occasionally as well.
“We get in a lot of tight end sets, pro and pro-over,” Lindsey said Tuesday night. “We get in a lot of tight end sets … Those guys have a role on our team.”
But Harris hasn’t caught a pass this season after grabbing two touchdown receptions in 2016. Auburn’s tight ends have rarely run routes, with the exception of a couple of plays in the “Fight Song” look.
JUCO tight end signee Sal Cannella has 3 catches this season, but they’ve all come at wide receiver — usually the “big slot” position in four-wide sets.
Lindsey said Auburn hasn’t thrown to a true tight end much in 2017 because of its personnel.
“Our top playmakers are who we want to get the ball to,” Lindsey said Tuesday. “And right now, we’ve got some guys that are probably just a little bit ahead of them when you’re talking about who you want to get the ball to each week.”
Still, after a self-evaluation process during this current bye week, Auburn could deliver a few surprise passes to the tight ends in November.
“Every game is a little bit different, and there might be a game or two where they can be more involved,” Malzahn said.