My colleague Justin Ferguson hit you with some tight end heat Thursday on the team side of things. It’s been a mystery the last two seasons, with zero — yes, zero — receptions at the position in the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
He drops some eye-opening figures about the tight end’s use in the passing game post-Philip Lutzenkirchen and C.J. Uzomah. I strongly encourage you to go check all of that out here.
A lot of it has to do with personnel. Auburn had Landon Rice committed since his sophomore year of high school, and the news of his dismissal amid a Title IX case put a major damper on the Tigers’ tight end plans for the next few years. Jalen Rice has been a fine backup plan in the blocking game, but he’s hardly been targeted in the passing game.
So, the question I’ve gotten a lot since that news broke: What is the future plan at tight end?
In these In Plains Sight notebooks, I’ve broached the topic of Kurt Rafdal’s (Ind.) official visit for the Clemson game and the remaining hope for a Tre’ McKitty (Fla.) flip from Oregon. In Rafdal’s case, it will be a battle with his in-state Hoosiers. For McKitty, Auburn’s best hope is a Ducks coaching change, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
But if both of those plans fall through, what might be Auburn’s backup plan in the 2017 class?
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The leader in the clubhouse, at this time, appears to Adam Boselli, a 3-star prospect from Episcopal in Jacksonville, Fla. Boselli is the son of USC and NFL great Tony Boselli, who starred for the Jacksonville Jaguars at offensive tackle. Coincidentally, the younger Boselli now catches passes from the son of former Jags quarterback Mark Brunell.
Boselli hasn’t been offered yet — mostly because of the offensive staff’s busy home slate to start the season — but he keeps in regular communication with tight ends coach Scott Fountain.
“I talked to coach Fountain a couple days ago. We stay in touch,” Boselli said. “He said he couldn’t offer me now, but he’s still going to try to recruit me and watch my film. Right now,I’m not 100 percent sure where I stand, but I know they’re still trying to recruit me.”
Boselli said he anticipates a visit from Auburn coaches on the recruiting trail sometime this month. There are a number of Auburn recruits in the 2017 and 2018 classes in the Jacksonville area, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if Auburn coaches make that trip soon.
On the flip side, Boselli has made two unofficial visits to Auburn since July. The one in July — his first time on campus — was for a camp and is really when his conversations with the staff began to pick up. He followed that up with an unofficial visit for the Arkansas State rout.
Boselli said he has enjoyed his experience in his few times in the area.
“It’s an awesome place. A bunch of people from the Jacksonville area go there, so I hear things from them,” Boselli said. “It sounds really nice, fun. It’s a nice college town.”
Understandably, when a recruit feels like a second or third option at a position, frustrations begin to mount — especially without an offer.
In Boselli’s case, that hasn’t hit full effect quite yet, but it’s beginning to emerge. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound tight end qualifies as a receiving-first tight end, which might be part of the uncertainty from both sides. Auburn might be looking for more of a blocking type, and Boselli admitted the Tigers tendencies have made him raise some questions.
“They use it much different. They use it out of the backfield, in the passing game and the running game,” Boselli said. “They definitely utilize it, but I don’t know if they utilize it in the passing game as much as I’d like.”
Again, a lot of that has to do with the personnel currently on the roster. Boselli acknowledged that.
As for on-field production, you can’t ask for more from a pass-catching tight end, albeit against small private schools competition in Jacksonville. Boselli has been a major factor in his team’s 6-0 start the season, and you can check out some of his highlights for yourself (he plays at outside linebacker for his high school, too).
As it stands, Boselli said he is most interested in N.C. State and South Florida, with Duke still in the equation, as well. If an Auburn offer were to come, it would need to be soon, but it could force Boselli to reassess the situation.
“At this point in my decision, it would have to come pretty soon,” Boselli said. “But it could change things pretty dramatically. They’d be in competition with those two schools, for sure, for where I’d end up going.”
Auburn targets to miss out on LSU-Florida
If you aren’t aware of the LSU vs. Florida cancellation/rescheduling debacle, where in the world have you been? Oh, escaping the wrath of Hurricane Matthew? OK, you’re excused.
The hurricane threat has affected a few college games, but none bigger — or more confusing going forward — than LSU-Florida. The yearly cross-divisional rivalry might or might not take place this season with several scheduling conflicts in the way. But if there are SEC title game implications, they’ll have no choice but to figure something out.
Still, this game came at a convenient time for a several Florida recruits to take in a big-time rivalry game in The Swamp. Many of those Gators targets also happen to be Auburn targets. The good news for the Tigers — and it always makes me feel dirty trying to justify the torment of a hurricane — is that several of those targets might not get such a high-profile experience in Gainesville.
Here are a few of the Auburn prospects who were planning to take the trip but will no longer be doing so because of the cancellation.
- 4-star Auburn athlete commit Tray Bishop
- 4-star LB target KJ Britt
- 4-star WR target Henry Ruggs
- 4-star DL target LaBryan Ray
- 3-star 2018 DL target Coynis Miller
- 4-star 2018 OL target Jalil Irvin
This postponement doesn’t explicitly help Auburn, but indirectly the Tigers might benefit simply because these athletes won’t get as nutty of an experience as what comes along with the LSU-Florida rivalry. Most of those players will still make official or unofficial visits to The Swamp, so it’s not like they’re missing out on the Gainesville experience altogether.