AUBURN, Ala. — Through the early weeks of fall camp, Auburn’s tight ends and H-backs have been pushed by their new position coach, Larry Porter.
The group has made progress, improving and raising its level of physicality. However, Porter has no intention of letting up.
“For me, I don’t think I’ll ever stop pushing to be physical because at the end of the day that group should represent what Auburn tough means,” Porter said. “And so with that being said, we will continue to push them and get them to make sure when they step on the field versus anybody they send a message.”
The changes haven’t come easy, but the unit has reason to be eager for the season to begin. With new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey making decisions, tight ends and H-backs should be more involved in the Tigers offense than they have in a long time. Responses have been good.
“I think as we continue to put fingerprints on this offense and introduce new things it excites the guys,” Porter said. “With that, it’s a little more pep in their step from the standpoint of just, ‘Hey, each day it’s something new.'”
As is to be expected, junior Chandler Cox has a lot to do with his unit’s enthusiasm.
“He’s a huge part. The three-back in our offense is really big, Lindsey said. “We, some places I’ve been we’ve used an actual tight end in that spot. A guy that can flex and play attached and play in the backfield. He’s a huge part of what we’re doing. He’s one of our team leaders, he’s played a lot. I think he’s a very, very important part of our offense.”
Cox is the starter, but he’s surrounded and backed up by a strong supporting crew.
Porter said Jalen Harris has “redefined” his body, adding good muscle. As a result, the 6-foot-4 tight end has been more confident since the end of July.
“Jalen Harris has made a lot of strides since last year,” Lindsey said. “I really believe that, being physical, blocking, hand in the ground as well as in the backfield.”
Junior college transfer Sal Cannella has spent a good amount of time with coach Kodi Burns’ wide receivers, but is being used in an attached role, too. The versatile and lanky athlete has remained willing to learn how to become more physical and play with his hand in the ground.
Then there’s newcomer John Samuel Shenker, who Lindsey mentions as a freshman who could play a role during his first season on the Plains. He’ll only become more involved for Auburn over time.
“Shenker, I think, has gotten better putting his hand in the ground and blocking,” Lindsey said. “For a guy to come out of high school in the SEC and learn to block at this level, I think is a tough task. But so far, he’s really shown some flashes and the future is really bright for him.”
It’s a unique group filled with different builds, abilities and personalities. As as a whole, however, they see the chance to become more important for the Tigers — and players are taking advantage of every second.
“I think they all have different skill sets,” Porter said. “And when you have an opportunity to show those skill sets, it’s about basically displaying to your coaches that, ‘I can help this football team.’”
And even as the unit works to land on a definition of toughness and exemplify it for the rest of the locker room, it’s having fun and demonstrating how to go through the growing process.
“The dynamics and the chemistry in that room is phenomenal,” Porter said. “Those guys they like each other, they care about each other, they challenge each other. And that’s been really fun as a coach to be around that environment with guys that care so much about Auburn University and their teammates, especially.”