Auburn football: Looking at the Tigers' tight ends/H-backs for 2014

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 19, 2014 

Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah was named to the Mackey Award watch list on Tuesday.

ROBIN TRIMARCHI — rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

Editor's note: The 2013 season is in the books. Any underclassmen eligible for the NFL draft have decided whether to return to school or pursue a pro career. And national signing day is drawing closer by the day. With that in mind, Auburn beat writer Ryan Black breaks down the team's 2014 roster, going position-by-position and giving his take on each spot's future. The series continues with the Tigers' tight ends and H-backs.

Who's Staying: C.J. Uzomah, senior: 11 receptions, 154 yards, three touchdowns

Brandon Fulse, senior: One reception, five yards

Gage Batten, sophomore: No stats compiled during 2013 season

Who's Leaving: Jay Prosch: Five receptions, 95 yards, TD

Who's Coming In: Chris Laye, freshman: Seven receptions, 107 yards, two touchdowns (Numbers from senior season at Lambert High School in Suwanee, Ga.)

Jakell Mitchell, freshman: 28 receptions, 403 receiving yards; Rushing: 88 carries, 392 yards, 17 touchdowns (Numbers from senior season at Opelika High School in Opelika, Ala.)

Ricky Parks, sophomore: Six receptions, 59 yards, two TDs (Numbers from past season at Northeast Mississippi Community College)

Outlook: One of the most important members of Auburn's running game last season didn't register a single carry.

That player, of course, is Prosch. One of the best fullbacks in the nation, his blocking was one of the key components in making the Tigers vaunted rushing attack so difficult to defend. His efforts, while rarely highlight reel plays, didn't go unnoticed by coaches and teammates, who went out of their way to praise Praise at every opportunity.

Who will step into that role next season?

Batten, who appeared in four games last season, is almost a Prosch clone. He's the same height as Prosch, with each standing at 6-foot. Yes, Batten is a bit lighter (230 pounds) than the departing upperclassmen (Prosch is listed at 258 pounds), but that difference can be made up before next fall arrives. Besides, the most important characteristic Batten shares with Prosch is a block-first mentality, which will serve him well as he vies for the starting job.

His biggest competition may be Parks.

Dismissed from the team following the first practice of fall camp, the Georgia native is back as a walk-on. He didn't rest on his laurels, though, as he immediately enrolled at Northeast Mississippi Community College and had six receptions, two for touchdowns. Still, he lacks experience at the Division I level, as Parks redshirted during his only full season at Auburn in 2012. What he lacks in playing time he makes up for in prototypical size; at 6-foot-4 and 263 pounds, he could line up at either H-back or tight end without issue.

Not that he should be expected to come in and wrest the tight end job away from Uzomah.

His numbers in 2013 weren't spectacular, but aside from Sammie Coates, there was no player Nick Marshall seemed more at ease throwing to than the senior from Suwanee. If he can stay healthy in 2014, Uzomah's numbers should improve dramatically.

Fulse, meanwhile, will never be confused for a top target. In three seasons as a Tiger, he's caught four passes for 25 yards. That's to take nothing away from his all-around game, though, as he was one of the team's best blockers last year.

As for the incoming freshman — Laye and Mitchell — it's hard to tell where they fit in at the moment. If either come in and impress immediately, the coaching staff won't hesitate to put them into the rotation. It should help Laye that he's one of the five members of the incoming class already on campus, so he'll have the opportunity to take part in spring practice.

Just taking a quick glance at Laye's stats and attributes from high school careers, he seems like a prime candidate for the H-back spot.

Mitchell, on the other hand, will be a receiving threat at H-back or wherever the Tigers elect to line him up at tight end.

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