Evolution of Auburn’s tight ends ‘opens the door’ to Tigers offensively


Nick Brahms considered trying to convince some of Auburn’s tight ends to move to the offensive line ahead of this season.

He had seen for years how effective some of them could be as blockers. In addition, the tight ends did not play a big role in the passing game anyway; would their skills not be better served elsewhere?

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“I didn’t know they could catch it, honestly,” Brahms joked. “These guys, I thought they were just blockers. We were sort of trying to recruit a few on the O line until they started catching stuff.

It’s a good thing that Brahms’ feigned attempt at recruiting has failed, as Auburn’s tight ends have found new life in the team’s new-look offense this season. Under the tutelage of positional coach Brad Bedell, and thanks to the offensive system put in place by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and head coach Bryan Harsin, Auburn’s tight ends made the most of their increased role. this season.

“All of our tight ends were involved in this attack,” said tight end Tyler Fromm. “I think it was a really good change for us. Personally, we appreciate it very much. We looked forward to becoming a solid part of the attack.

Auburn has fielded at least one tight end for the majority of his snaps this season, and the Tigers have not shied away from entering tight two and three end sets offensively. Yes, the group have always played a key role in blocking the run – helping to pave the way for Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter – but tight ends played a big part in Auburn’s passing game as well.

Four different tight ends have caught multiple assists this season in Auburn’s revamped offense. John Samuel Shenker leads the way with 21 receptions for 273 yards (he’s Auburn’s fourth-best receiver this year) as he’s been featured so often early in the season.

The more the Tigers deepened their schedule, however, the more tight ends were incorporated into the attacking game plan. Fromm has five receptions for 82 yards and one touchdown, and he was on the receiving of one of Auburn’s most important games of the season – Bo Nix’s breakout pass as Houdini against LSU in the opening game of the SEC. Luke Deal caught seven passes for 46 yards, and rookie Landen King has risen through the ranks of the Boy Scout team to gain significant playing time in the last three games. During that span, he made four catches for 54 yards and he also drew a key pass interference call in last week’s win over Ole Miss.

This added another dimension to Auburn’s offensive that has been lacking in recent years. This was evident, especially the last two games, when Nix managed assists at 11 and 10 different targets, respectively, in the team’s victories over Arkansas and Ole Miss. Gone are the days when Auburn’s tight ends were just decoys and designated blockers, as the development of the group helped make the Tigers’ offense less predictable and more difficult for opponents to defend.

“It’s just fun having 12 and 13 on staff and knowing that all the tight ends can get a chance to play and be a part of it,” Fromm said. “I think that just opens the door. If we’re only here for the run play, then obviously the defense will understand that. Since all of the tight ends have been there for the run and the pass, it’s just a good balance to get the tight ends involved.

Tight ends still have room to improve overall – like every position, as Harsin has often noted – and they’re a constant work in progress. But as the Tigers prepare for the final month of the season, the tight ends have proven their collective worth to the team’s offense this year and, yes, they know how to catch the ball.

“I hope Nick was joking about it because he sees what we do in practice every day,” Fromm said. “But no, it’s been great to just be a more valuable part of the offense and a bigger part of it. It’s just fun for all of us. John Samuel Shenker has had a hell of a year so far, and we just want it to continue. We’re just excited as a tight group that we can all play a part in this attack.

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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