Editor's note: Auburn's spring practice starts March 18. Some positions are set in stone. Some are up for grabs. Auburn beat writer Ryan Black has already evaluated all the personnel groupings on the team (which you can find here), but now he's paring that down even further to account for every individual position, projecting how the depth chart will look when the Tigers get back on the field for the first time since the BCS championship game. The series continues with the H-backs.
Brandon Fulse, senior: One reception, five yards
Gage Batten, sophomore: No stats compiled during 2013 season
Chris Laye, freshman: Seven receptions, 107 yards, two touchdowns (Numbers from senior season at Lambert High School in Suwanee, Ga.)
Ricky Parks, sophomore: Six receptions, 59 yards, two TDs (Numbers from past season at Northeast Mississippi Community College)
Projected depth chart:
Analysis: Here's a tough position to call.
If Gus Malzahn decides he wants the closest possible comparison to last year's starter, Jay Prosch, he'll put Batten at the top of the depth chart. Both are physical players with block-first mentalities, which is of the utmost importance in Auburn's running game. As good as Tre Mason and Co. were last season, their lives would have been much more difficult if Prosch wasn't out ahead to take out defenders.
Fulse fits this mold as well, as his stats attest. The rising senior has just four receptions for 25 yards in his Auburn career. It's hard to know much about Laye since he just enrolled this spring, but judging by his high school numbers, he would also seem well-suited to the H-back role. Of the four players listed above, he's the tallest, standing at 6-foot-5. The biggest thing he'll have to overcome, of course, is that he's the least experienced player competing for the job, not to mention the fact he's just now getting a chance to learn the playbook.
If Malzahn goes in a different direction, he could look to Parks. The Georgia native was dismissed from the team following the first practice of fall camp last year, but now he's back as a walk-on. He presents a bit more of a pass-catching threat than the aforementioned trio above. That could work in his favor if the coaching staff decides it wants to free up a few more touches for the H-back, though that seems unlikely. (Prosch had no carries and caught only five passes for 95 yards and a touchdown last season.)
The biggest reason this is such a difficult position to project? Parks, Fulse and Laye will also compete for time at tight end behind C.J. Uzomah.
With that in mind, I'll wager that Batten begins the spring as the starter. Whether that's the case once the A-Day game is over is anyone's guess.