Auburn Football: 5 Utility Players That Will Make a Splash in 2012
Photo via 247sports.com
Auburn will have a lot of new looks and changes that will take over the offense and defense this coming fall. One of the keys to the Tigers success on both sides of the ball will be utility players—guys that make impacts at multiple positions.
There are five guys—four offensive and one defensive—that will make a tremendous splash for the Tigers in 2012.
Auburn will look to some new faces to provide a spark this fall, and these five will be the utilized in multiple roles, giving the Tigers a wealth of opportunities both offensively and defensively. Look for these five to step out from the orange and blue crowd and make big plays when needed in key games this fall.
Uzomah throws a TD against Georgia, Nov. 2011 | Photo via al.com
C.J. Uzomah is an interesting utility athlete for the Tigers. Uzomah was a high school quarterback that was shifted to the H-back utility role in the Gus Malzahn offense.
This season, Uzomah will take the field as a true tight end, H-back and possible slot receiver. Uzomah can also throw passes at the collegiate level—he threw a touchdown pass for the only score against Georgia in 2011.
Uzomah has the body size to be a prototypical tight end—he is 6’4”, 246 pounds—but the athletic ability to run routes like a receiver and throw passes like a mid-level quarterback.
Look for Uzomah to play primarily at tight end, but trick plays involving his arm and packages that need size in the slot will also be in the playbook this fall. Uzomah can make a major impact for the Tigers this season, despite playing behind preseason All-SEC first team selection at tight end—Philip Lutzenkirchen.
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Quan Bray came to Auburn as an explosive receiver and fulfilled all expectations as a freshman in 2011.
In 2012, the Tigers will need and expect more from Bray.
Bray has a very unique speed and athleticism that sets him apart on the football field. Bray has the toughness to carry a football up the middle, and the speed to break a punt return for a touchdown.
This season Bray will play slot receiver and will serve as a return man on special teams. Although the Tigers are very deep at running back, he may also garner a few carries before the season finishes.
Auburn has to find a dynamic player that can provide the offense with explosion and game-changing ability—Bray has that skill set. He can easily solidify himself as a new star for the Tigers with a strong 2012 campaign.
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Trovon Reed has battled injuries since his arrival on the Plains, which halted production that had been expected from the explosive former 5-star recruit.
This coming season Reed is a rising redshirt sophomore this season. Reed has talent, but has yet to translate that talent into production.
Quarterback woes hurt his chances last season as well as nagging knee and shoulder injuries. Expect Reed to step out a bit this fall and really come into his own as a safety valve option for the Tigers new leader at quarterback.
Auburn needs explosion from every direction offensively—Reed coupled with Quan Bray could be a dangerous tandem for opposing defenses. Reed will play slot receiver and serve the Tigers in a return role in 2012.
Reed is the oldest player on this list, but his lack of production in the previous two years earns him a spot as a utility player that will make a splash this coming season.
Photo via 247sports.com
Ricardo Louis is an incoming freshman for the 2012 season and one of the few 2012 signees that I see making an instant impact. Louis has a unique blend of size and speed and has the athleticism to play either offensive or defensive football for the Tigers this fall.
By the end of his career, he may have played on both sides of the ball. Heading into the 2012 season—as an incoming freshman—his biggest impact will come from the return game and at receiver for the Tigers.
Don’t expect to see Louis on a regular basis, but when he does touch the field, it will be electric. In the open field, Louis is virtually untouchable. He played quarterback by default in high school, making the transition more difficult because he has no default position where he has worked and is comfortable.
As a receiver he will have to prove that he has the hands for the college game, but as an overall athlete, he will be on the level of those found on the field with him. Expect Louis to make an impact in the return game and as a receiver for the Tigers in 2012.
Mark Almond | The Birmingham News
JaBrian Niles is the only defender that is found on this list—assuming that Ricardo Louis plays on the offensive side of the ball. As a defensive lineman, the impact may seem limited but Niles is a transition inside-outside guy for the Tigers defense.
Niles has the size to play on the inside and the speed to come off the edge as a defensive end. He redshirted last season, but has received rave reviews this spring and is a guy that should surprise opposing offenses this fall.
Not many 300-pound guys can take off the edge with the speed that Niles brings. That speed is also helpful on the inside, as it allows for Niles to beat the block and play around in the opposing backfield easily.
Niles will play a utility type role along the defensive line, filling gaps when needed. By season's end, even the most casual Auburn fan will know Niles’ name. Expect him to be in on some of the biggest defensive stops in 2012.