Will tight ends play bigger role in Auburn football offense in 2018?
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Do you see tight ends having more touches in 2018?
AUBURN, Ala. — Every year, Auburn fans find themselves asking the same question come spring: Will the Tigers finally feature their tight ends more?
In recent seasons, the hopes have been high, but repeatedly the answer has been no. This season, for a couple of reasons, that could change.
Gus Malzahn held Chandler Cox out of the A-Day scrimmage, but only because the coaching staff has so much information on the senior. This spring, the tight ends have been a bigger focus.
“Coach Porter, he’s done a good job,” Malzahn said. “Just trying to develop some depth at the position, and we’ve really worked hard with our tight end. I know we’ve had more tight end work with our hand down than what we’ve had probably the last few springs. That’s been by design. So, that’s been good in the spring.”
The work has been done on the football field and in the weight room. For example, newcomer John Samuel Shenker has added good weight and is nearly up to 250 pounds, according to Malzahn. The underclassman and others in the position group have impressed coaches.
“Yeah, he’s playing with his hand down and playing some H-back, too,” Malzahn said of Shenker. “Real versatile guy. Him and Jalen [Harris] are really doing a lot of the same stuff as far as that goes. Sal [Cannella] has worked with his hand down quite a bit. Not as much H-back, but quite a bit with his hand down as far as that goes. It’s been good work.”
Malzahn has noticed Shenker’s growth this spring. That’s an encouraging sign for people hoping to see a tight end targeted more frequently.
“He’s got good hands, and he’s a baseball player and all that,” Malzahn said. “This spring has been good for him. He’s got a whole lot of reps. You see him improving. He still needs to keep working, but you see him improving.”
Every compliment counts no matter who’s on the receiving end. In recent seasons, Auburn’s tight ends didn’t quite have the skill set to be used consistently in the offense. A second year under offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, and quite possibly more autonomy, could mean some new twists for the Tigers.
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham will return to lead Auburn’s offense this fall, and his confidence after such a strong initial season in the SEC will make a difference, too.
Additionally, the injuries Auburn’s Eli Stove and Will Hastings have suffered could make it more likely that the Tigers will use their tight ends more as targets. Whatever happens come September, Auburn probably won’t use its tight ends as much as fans would hope, but chances are the players get more work this fall than ever before under Malzahn.