Auburn, Ala.--As Emory Blake and his teammates prepare for the start of preseason practice on Wednesday, the top receiver on the 2011 Auburn team notes that his Tigers have plenty of work to do to prepare for the 2012 football season.
“There’s still a lot of stuff to be installed,” says Blake, who notes the Tigers put in a good bit of their offensive system in spring drills. “If we learn what to do, I know we’re going to execute. That’s the big thing. We have just got to know.”
Blake will head into his senior season with 78 catches 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns. Last season he led the Tigers in receiving yards with 613 on 36 receptions despite being limited by injuries.
Healthy again, he heads into his final season of college football as a third team pick to the Coaches Preseason All-SEC Team. If everything goes according to plan offensively for new coordinator Scot Loeffler, the senior may have the numbers to challenge for first team All-SEC honors.
Blake says while there are similarities on what the Tigers will do in 2012 compared to last season’s offense with Gus Malzahn calling the shots, he notes that what the Tigers will be doing is very different. He says “the verbiage, the pre-shifts and the motions” have changed in addition to the formations.
One of the biggest changes is the Tigers are expected to line up in two-back sets more often with a fullback in the mix, something than was not a major part of Malzahn’s system.
With the Tigers adding transfer Jay Prosch in January, and with the former University of Illinois standout cleared to play this season, Blake predicts the 250-pound fullback will make a positive difference for the Tigers.
“Jay is such a physical presence that you won’t believe it,” Blake says. “You see him and you’re like, ‘Man, he’s huge.’ Just having him back there to lead the way and for pass protection and all, that is big--it’s very big for us.”
Blake says the 2011 team’s growth from its season opener vs. Utah State to the Chick-fil-A Bowl provided momentum heading into the offseason. “It gave us a lot of confidence and I believe we’re going to be ready for the first game,” he says.
Emory Blake looks for running room in Auburn's victory over Virginia.
There is little doubt that Blake will be ready to go this season, but there are questions elsewhere on offense where the Tigers are unsettled on a starting quarterback and are expected to have no more than one junior or senior on the two-deep depth chart at the five line spots.
Junior Clint Moseley, who was the starter at the end of the 2011 season, and sophomore Kiehl Frazier are competing to be the No. 1 quarterback. Frazier saw significant action as a true freshman, but his role was mainly to run the football or fake the run and hand off to a back.
Blake avoids saying who he expects to start this fall, but notes that Frazier “has come a long way” and Moseley “has gotten better” since last season under the direction of Loeffler.
“The way he talks to them and the way he expects them to do their jobs, go through progressions and deliver the ball, it puts a lot of pressure on them,” the wide receiver says. “I just see how he works with them and it gets them better, it makes them better quarterbacks.”
Up front guard John Sullen is the only senior in the mix for a starting assignment and there is a possibility that freshmen will be called on to start at one or both tackle spots. However, the Tigers have talent on hand with a strong signee class of seven offensive linemen added to the roster. Blake notes he is impressed with what he has seen so far from the young linemen along with the returning players at center, guard and tackle.
“Even during our national championship year our offensive line didn’t look like our offensive line does now as far as speed and strength goes,” he says. “They’re just big, physical guys that can run.”
Coming off an 8-5 season Blake says the Tigers have expectations to be much better his senior year and he hopes to be a big part of that. After starting practice on Wednesday the Tigers will put on full pads for the first time five days later as they prepare for their opener vs. defending ACC champion Clemson.
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