Gus Malzahn has returned to lead the Auburn football program, and with him comes his physical, run-first, up-tempo offense. In that offense, All-American fullback Jay Prosch will shine in his senior campaign in 2013.
In most cases, when a fullback hears that a spread offense is coming to town, he will begin to look around at other opportunities. For the Auburn football team and All-American fullback Jay Prosch, the Gus Malzahn offense isn't like most spread offenses.
If you ask Malzahn, his offense isn't anything close to a spread offense.
“We’re a two-back, run, play-action team with an emphasis on going fast and throwing the ball vertically down the field,” Malzahn told ESPN's Chris Low before the 2010 BCS Championship game. “We go from the shotgun, which probably people think is the spread. But we’ve got to run the football. We have to run the football to be successful to open up the pass."
Prosch was expected to be the protypical fullback needed for Auburn's transition to a pro-style offense when he transferred from Illinois to be closer to his ailing mother after the 2011 season. Iris Prosch passed away shortly after her son made his Auburn debut against Clemson.
Instead of being the impact player that his talents suggested, he was underutilized, which left a lot of Auburn fans scratching their heads.
In Malzahn's three years as offensive coordinator for Auburn, he did not have a true road grader type of fullback like Prosch as a lead blocker. With running plays like the counter, zone and buck sweep being an integral part of the offense, a fullback is badly needed.
Former players Eric Smith and Philip Lutzenkirchen filled the role when needed with limited success, but Prosch can fit that role perfectly for Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.
Even without a true lead blocker, Malzahn's Auburn offenses ranked no lower than fourth in the SEC in rushing each year.
Tight ends and H-backs coach Scott Fountain is very excited to have Prosch in the offense. "You know, I just think he can give us another dimension in the running game that we didn't have two years ago, or even the year we won the national championship," Fountain told Joel Erickson of al.com.
Fountain isn't the only one who is happy.
Auburn running backs Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne, along with the rest of the RBs, have to be excited and hopeful for Prosch's playing time to increase.
Wouldn't you want a guy nicknamed "The Juggernaut" blocking for you? Prosch earned the nickname in last year's spring practice.
“They call him the Juggernaut,” former RB coach Curtis Luper told Aaron Brenner of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer last spring. “You know, (guys like Prosch) are hard to find. There aren’t many guys who can power clean 400 pounds and run like he can run and block like he can, as flexible as he is, the hands that he has. He’s a prototype fullback.”
It was a point of frustration for Auburn fans last fall that Prosch was used very little, especially after a strong showing in the season opener against Clemson where his blocks sprung Mason on a couple of big runs.
Like the first play on this video.
Although he played in 11 games, Prosch did not see the field on a consistent basis during games. His blocking could have helped out the SEC's ninth-ranked rushing attack.
Although he is known for his blocking ability, Prosch showed in 2012 that he is capable of doing more than just being a lead blocker. He can run the ball and catch it too.
Last fall, Prosch had nine carries for 31 yards and two touchdowns. He also came out of the backfield and caught five passes for a total of 19 yards.
That versatility is why the 6'0", 260-pound Prosch—who made Bruce Feldman's "freak" list because of the strength he displays in the weight room—will be a valuable commodity in short-yardage and red-zone situations.
One thing that Malzahn was always good at while he was Auburn's offensive coordinator was being able to tailor his offense around the talent that he had available. Now that he has a true fullback at his disposal in Prosch, it will open a few more pages in the Malzahn playbook.
Scary thought for opponents, but an awesome thought if you are an Auburn fan.