Five Auburn Players Poised to Have a Breakout Year on Offense
It’s just 38 days till kick off for the Auburn Football Team. After the disastrous 2012 season, the Tigers enter 2013 with a lot of new faces along with a lot of questions.
Perhaps the biggest of which is how much can the Tiger offense rebound from last year’s 13th place SEC finish in total offense.
With an entire new coaching staff along with new offensive and defensive schemes, there will be plenty of opportunities for players to have a breakout year.
This week we will look at five players from the offense who I believe are poised to make a big impact. Next week we will look at five defensive players that could be very important in turning things around on The Plains.
Here are five offensive players that are set to have a breakout season heading into 2013:
* C.J Uzomah, Tight End/H-back
A versatile player, Uzomah was recruited as a wide receiver and then moved to tight end during the spring of 2012. He got his chance last year when he had to replace an injured Phillip Lutzenkirchen. C.J. caught seven passes for 136 yards and a touchdown while showing some of the moves that his mentor Lutz had displayed over the previous three years.
In fact, he looked a lot like Lutz on the field. Phillip said he wasn’t surprised, because he expects C.J. to really open some eyes in 2013. That has already started to take place as Uzomah was named last week as one of 37 tight ends on the Mackey Award preseason watch list which recognizes the nation’s top tight end.
* Trovon Reed, Wide Receiver
Reed, a junior, was one of the most highly recruited receivers in his recruiting class. Yet he has not had the success that everyone expected of him primarily due to a number of injuries. He only has 30 career receptions but he’s healthy now and will be playing in an offense that suits his skill set.
Malzahn says, “The good thing about Trovon is he understands our system. He’s been in it, so this is a year that will be very critical for him, I’ve got very high expectations for him. I think it’s (his) time.”
* Jaylon Denson, Wide receiver
The Auburn receiving corps has a lot of unproven players this year. But Denson has been a pleasant surprise. Although he only has one career reception for 12 yards, he earned a starting role in the spring. One big thing in Jaylon’s favor is his ability to block as a receiver – an important commodity in the Malzahn offense.
You can bet Denson will see a lot more passes thrown his way in 2013. Those that doubt him only need to remember Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachary who caught a combined five passes before Malzahn came to The Plains and yet the two combined for 181 catches for 3,042 yards and 26 touchdowns their last two years.
* Cameron Artis-Payne, Running Back
Although, Tre Mason is the returning starting running back, Artis-Payne showed during the spring what he is capable of bringing to the offense. Cameron has a great combination of size and speed. He rushed for 117 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries (for 6.5 yard average) and caught two passes for 47 yards in the Spring Game, earning him MVP honors.
After rushing for 2,048 yards and 25 touchdowns last season at Allan Hancock Junior College, he definitely raised eyebrows and expectations with his A-Day performance. Auburn quarterback Jonathan Wallace said, “Cameron is special. He’s going to open up a lot of eyes this fall and … a lot of good things will happen for him.”
* Nick Marshall, Quarterback
I know what some are thinking with this choice … How can you pick a new guy over two veterans? After all Jonathan Wallace enters the season as last year’s starter and Kiehl Frazier probably knows Malzahn’s offense better that any player on the roster.
Well my heart says Wallace is the man but my head says it will be Marshall. Besides, Juco quarterbacks are not usually brought in to sit the bench. Malzahn and Lashlee have made it clear that the job is still open. But as soon as Marshall gets a grasp of the offense, I believe he will be given the keys. That may or may not be before August 31.
During his one year at Garden City, Nick scored 37 touchdowns (19 passing and 18 running) accounting for more than 4,000 yards in 11 games.
His Juco coach Jeff Tatum said Nick is exactly “the kind of quarterback you need to sign when you’re trying to turn a program around.” And when he was signed, Coach Malzahn said, “He’s a great athlete … one of those impact players. We feel like he could come in here and give us a chance right off the bat.”
If Malzahn comes through as he has in eight seasons as a college coach and produces another record setting quarterback … then that QB will truly be “The” Breakout player of the year.