Tight ends usually aren’t a huge part of Gus Malzahn’s offense — an Auburn tight end hasn’t had over 200 receiving yards since Philip Lutzenkirchen reeled in 238 in 2011.
With former tight end Sal Cannella moving to wide receiver last year, the Tigers relied on John Samuel Shenker, who recorded only three catches for 40 yards and one touchdown during his redshirt freshman year.
The halfback/fullback position has been an integral yet unheralded position in the Malzahn era. Former full back Jay Prosch led the way for Tre Mason’s incredible 2013 season and Chandler Cox, a recent seventh-round selection for the Miami Dolphins, was a four-year starter on The Plains who was essential in keeping the Auburn offense running.
Now with Cox in the NFL and a group of freshmen tight ends coming in the recent recruiting class, the Tigers will now look to find a way for these players to make an impact.
The Tigers often combine the two positions and will look for versatile players who can serve as lead blockers and pass catchers.
John Samuel Shenker
Shenker, now a redshirt sophomore, will likely be Auburn’s starter at tight end.
The Albany, Georgia native could have an increased role in the passing game as a big red-zone target, but Shenker will likely make his mark as a lead blocker.
“John has really stepped up. He really fits the mold of those freshmen — he doesn't really look like a freshman anymore,” Malzahn said early in May. 'Now that Chandler is gone, he's really trying to establish himself as the guy. He's off to a really good start.”
Shenker recorded three catches for 18 yards on A-Day.
Joiner is a wildcard in the Auburn offense. The redshirt freshman hasn’t quite found a position to call his own during his time on The Plains.
Joiner is 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds so while he may not have the weight that other H-backs have, he is incredibly athletic with good hands.
The former four-star recruit may get some carries at running back, may line up in the slot and will likely get reps at H-back.
Regardless, Joiner's versatility and athleticism will give him the chance to make plays in 2019.
The senior walk-on appeared in all 13 games for the Tigers in 2018 and at 267 pounds, Nigh will serve as a strong, hard-headed blocker who also saw first-team reps during the spring.
The younger brother of UGA quarterback Jake Fromm, Tyler was a top-10 tight end recruit in the nation according to ESPN.
A long, lean receiving tight end, Fromm, at 6-foot-5, has the chance to be a tall target in short yardage and red-zone situations.
However, at only 218 pounds, Fromm might need to pack on a few more pounds and improve his blocking before he gets much playing time in his freshman year.
Fromm reeled in his one and only target for seven yards during the Tiger’s spring game.
Another incoming freshman from the class of 2019, Deal has all the intangibles to succeed at Auburn.
While not as highly recruited as Fromm, Deal, at 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, has tremendous size and the athleticism to torment opposing defenses in the future.
The true freshman out of Greenwood, South Carolina may not get much, if any, playing time in 2019 due to a torn ACL he suffered in December. But when he recovers, Deal is someone to look out for in the future.
Jay Jay Wilson
Wilson, a graduate transfer from Arizona State, committed to Auburn in January and will definitely be in the mix for the starting H-back position.
He had an interesting career in Tempe, switching positions between tight end and linebacker multiple times during his four years.
Wilson’s best statistical offensive season came in 2016 when the 6-foot-3, 245-pound tight end reeled in four catches for 81 yards and three touchdowns.
A foot injury kept Wilson out for most of 2019 but the former four-star recruit will have one more chance to make a greater impact as he is among the top candidates to replace Cox.
Tight ends don’t often pop out on Auburn box scores. At the same time, while the position isn’t usually heavily involved in the passing game under Malzahn, the coach’s ability to mold players into tight end/H-back lead blocking machines is effective and underappreciated.
Replacing a four-year starter in Cox will be difficult but if recent history is any indicator, the Tigers will have no problem finding a suitable replacement.
Two incoming tight ends in the 2019 recruiting cycle and an athletic graduate transfer may indicate an increased reliance on the position in 2019.