The timing, as always, is brilliant. For any newcomers to the JCCW/WBE canon: for lo these many years I have been referring to Tommy Trott as Tommy “Not a Blocking Tight End” Trott, because back in the Al Borges heyday, Tommy Trott was frequently asked to drive some linebacker off the ball or seal a defensive end, and he frequently failed in these tasks in ways that resulted in tackles-for-loss with unfortunate regularity.
But in all fairness, Trott improved dramatically in this aspect over the past couple of seasons and this year, Gus Malzahn figured something out: if Trott just isn’t big or powerful enough to handle defenders along the line, he’s still quick and fundamental–and big– enough to handle them out on the edge. And so over the first two games of this year, Trott has been an unleashed terror on the corners and safeties of the world, repeatedly pounding them out of the way as Fannin or McCalebb streak by. He’s had as big an impact as a receiver can have without catching pass (which he hasn’t).
(T)rue freshman Philip Lutzenkirchen would be the top candidate to replace (Trott). “He’s going to have to be (ready),” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “He’s got a lot of talent. He’s getting used to college football, and the demands from the physical and mental standpoint. He’s going to be a very good player for us, but we’re going to need him to step up very quick.”
Given how little Auburn has relied on its tight ends for pass-catching through two games–as a group, they have all of two receptions, one to Lutz and one to walk-on Jay Wisner–the most important aspect of replacing Trott would unequivocally seem to be the replacement’s blocking capabilities. From that same (comprehensive as always) Andy Bitter blog post:
Lutzenkirchen on how his role is different in college vs. high school: “I was just a big slot receiver. I didn’t have to put my hand down for blocking. Since I’ve been here, they’re really preached that I need to get the blocking down, so I guess they are – I wouldn’t say comfortable, but more comfortable at where by blocking is at. That’s the main difference.”
Lutzenkirchen arrived at Auburn with a profile as a slighter, much more pass-oriented tight end than the ones recruited during the Borges era, so it’s not a surprise to read that the coaches weren’t thrilled with his blocking technique, but still … this sounds like a lot like a freshman version of–wait for it–Tommy Trott. (He also gets the “hey, this kid’s going to start, here’s who he is” treatment from the B’ham News.)
If Lutzenkirchen has Malzahn’s full endorsement, there won’t be any second-guessing here, but I’ll be surprised if the freshman hogs as many snaps as Trott did. For starters, Chizik has already discussed putting his pair of fullbacks (Eric Smith and John Douglas) to further use, and there’s not one but two tight ends that should offer plenty of blocking. One, of course, is Gabe McKenzie–Malzahn said he’d “play some” and the senior is both athletic and experienced enough that he should be fine despite Malzahn’s reservations about his preparedness.
The other is Wisner, the Trooper Taylor favorite who hasn’t gotten a ton of time so far but has made the most of it, repeatedly making solid blocks and catching the single pass thrown his way. As sturdy as he’s looked and as questionable as Lutezenkirchen’s blocking skills might be, I would have expected him to get the first call as Trott’s replacement; I still think we’re going to see plenty of him this Saturday.Chizik
More. Auburn’s players and coaches offered up a ton of worthwhile quotes yesterday. You can read: 1. Chizik being appropriately unhappy with his special teams 2. Malzahn discussing the difficulties in confronting WVU’s unusual 3-3-5 defense 3. Walt McFadden offering to become a “Dwight Freeney”-style pass rusher (and offering an opposite take from Chizik’s and Roof’s on Demond Washington’s attempted interception on 3rd-and-13) 4. Ryan Pugh talking about a whole bunch of stuff (and Bynes’ justifiable frustration with Etheridge’s tackle totals) 5. Chizik asking for the loudest crowd in the country this Saturday and saying he wouldn’t “buy stock” in Auburn just yet, the way any coach whose team has dramatically increased expectations in two weeks the way his has ought to.
That last link, from AuburnUndercover, also has an amusing brain fart on the part of P-Marsh:
Nice of the Hogs to let us use their place as a neutral site, wasn’t it? (Not that I have any room to talk. I’m the guy who referred to Auburn’s outside linebacker as “Craig Stewart” for the duration of one paragraph last week.)
Class. More evidence that Tony Franklin isn’t fit to carry Al Borges’s … well, he probably doesn’t wear jocks anymore. Not fit to carry his headsest, though, that much we know for certain.
Hmmmm …. You can ask if Auburn’s getting their appropriate due from the national media or poll voters, but we can’t have any gripes with the Vegas oddsmakers: Auburn has apparently been installed as nearly a touchdown favorite over the team that manhandled them by 17 points last year. I thought the La. Tech spread was waaaaaay too wide and that turned out OK, and that Vegas has that much faith in us is a big reason to believe in Auburn’s chances this weekend, but still … catching 6.5 points against a team as solid as WVU strikes me as too much, too soon. Level heads, everyone, please.
Yep. Dr. Gustav won Rivals’ “Coordinator of the Week” honor. Were there any other serious candidates?
BlAUgosphere. Over at Track’Em, WEA takes a look at some reasons why Auburn’s run offense is off to the kind of ridonkulous start it’s gotten off to. Will wonders why Lane Kiffin is saying the things he’s saying out loud (there’s a lot of that going around up there).
At other SEC blogs, ATVS is still high on Chris Todd, Year2 examines just how much difference a year made in the AU-MSU series, and Auburn rises to sixth in the SEC Power Poll.
Etc. Andy Bitter brings you some West Virginia news and a story on why Jeff Grimes and his new charges are working so well together … There’s a lot of these going around, but I think this is the best one as of yet.