Auburn, Ala.--Although he has just seven receptions for 136 yards and one touchdown in his two seasons at Auburn, junior tight end C.J. Uzomah enters the 2013 season with plenty of expectations in Gus Malzahn's high-octane offense.
On the preseason John Mackey Award Watch List for the nation’s top tight end, Uzomah should have a much bigger role in the offense this season than the past two seasons.
“It’s an honor to be mentioned in the preseason as a top tight end in the nation, but personal accolades and individual accolades are rewarding but we’re hoping to make it to the (Georgia) Dome and the national championship,” Uzomah said. “That’s what our sights are on.
“There is always going to be expectations for me to perform every week,” he said. “I feel like that pressure is going to be there for all of us now with this new staff saying, 'it’s a new day.' I think that pressure is going to be there no matter what. It’s up to us to step up to the plate and take it head-on.”
C.J. Uzomah was recruited to Auburn when Gus Malzahn was the offensive coordinator.
Spending his summer workout time splitting reps between tight end position and outside at wide receiver, Uzomah said that one of his goals has been to become a more complete player as he heads into his third season on the Plains. That would make him a stronger candidate to become one of the go-to receivers for the Tigers, something that is his goal.
“I have thought about it a lot,” he said. “I think everybody would want to be that guy in a pressure situation to step up on third down of if you need a last-second touchdown then who are you going to throw it to? Everyone is working and battling to fill that position. I think this offseason everybody has been training their hardest to be that guy and that’s a huge positive.”
Uzomah is one of many candidates to earn that role in Auburn’s offense this season with receivers such as Trovon Reed, Quan Bray, Jaylon Denson, Sammie Coates, and Ricardo Louis hoping to play the part of go-to receiver as well.
Among the newcomers who have the chance to make an impact on offense will be freshman wide receiver Tony Stevens. A player who has caught the eye of Uzomah because of his playmaking ability during the captains' practices, Stevens is part of an incoming group that has shown they are ready to compete.
“They are just as anxious to get out there as I have ever seen a freshman class, including our freshman class,” Uzomah said. “They have wanted to be in with the first, second and third group no matter what. They are always asking to get in, asking for advice, asking for tips on how to shake a corner or something like that. They have been really sure-handed. I think those guys coming in are going to impact us a lot.”
The receivers won’t matter unless the quarterbacks can get them the football. That was a problem last season and it carried over into the spring as neither Kiehl Frazier nor Jonathan Wallace stepped up and took over the position. Because of that newcomers Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson will be trying to win the job when the Tigers open preseason camp on Aug. 2.
Uzomah said while there is still plenty left to be done on the field and in the classroom for both trying to learn the ins and outs of the offense, both have the talent to make a run this fall.
“I think they are ready to do their best and perform and come in to fight for the quarterback position,” Uzomah said. “Obviously, Jonathan and Kiehl and have been in this offense a little bit. Jonathan, as film-heavy as he is, isn’t having a huge problem picking up on it. Jeremy and Nick can throw the ball. They’ve been in the film room. They’re antsy for camp to get here. They’re going to be a threat at the quarterback position.
“I think it’s honestly as wide open as it has ever been,” he added of the quarterback battle. “They have all been throwing the ball really well and competing and making the right reads and not making huge mistakes this offseason. I think the door is wide open.”
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