April 11, 2014
Brandon Fulse leads the pack in the race to replace Jay Prosch (Lauren Barnard photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn football players still tell stories about the blocks H-back Jay Prosch delivered on Auburn's run to the BCS Championship Game last season. His nickname was "Juggernaut," and with good reason.
They talk about the time he got two pancakes on one play against Missouri in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. They talk about watching defensive players simply get out of his way instead of taking him on.
While Auburn players went through the 11th practice of the spring Thursday, Prosch was working out for the Atlanta Falcons. The next snap he takes will be in the NFL. Auburn coaches are search for his successor, or successors.
"We probably lost the best 3-back ever," senior tailback Cameron Artis-Payne said. "It's probably going to have to be a committee thing."
Scott Fountain, who coaches the H-backs and tight ends, offers no disagreement.
"He's the best I've ever seen or been around at that position," Fountain said. "That's for sure."
It is Fountain's mission now to find the next Jay Prosch, the next blocker to lead the way for the running game that is a crucial part of head coach Gus Malzahn's offensive scheme, to make room for Artis-Payne, Corey Grant, Peyton Barber or whatever back might get the ball.
Seniors C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse will be 1-2 at tight end going into the season. They also could be 1-2 at H-back. Sophomore Gage Batten and junior walk-on Pat Young are fullback-types who are also getting work. Freshman Chris Laye is concentrating on tight end.
"C.J. did it a lot last spring and in camp," Fountain said. "He's a little bit ahead at the start. Brandon is right there with him or maybe a step above him. At the end of the day, we know in that mix somebody has to step up and be that guy. I think they're working toward doing that and have accepted that role."
Ideally, Fountain says, the player who wins the job will be able to play like a fullback, like a tight end or even split wide as a receiver. Uzomah (6-4, 264) and Fulse (6-4, 272) fit that description.
"The thing we have to get better at is the 3-back stuff in the backfield," Fountain said. "If we can master that, it opens a lot of opportunities for us to do a lot of things. You never have to substitute if you don't want to. One of those guys is going to have to step up and be Jay Prosch. They've bought in to doing that."
Sophomore Ricky Parks, who was dismissed from the team last season and returned for spring practice, could get into the mix in preseason practice, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says.
"Ricky is just trying to handle Ricky's business," Lashlee said. "He's out there every day, and he's getting work. We'll see how that plays out."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: