Auburn's C.J. Uzomah tries to get the call after making a catch against Arkansas
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse figure they can thrive in a world of flashy receivers like Sammie Coates, Duke Williams, Ricardo Louis and Melvin Ray.
Tight ends and/or H-backs by trade, Uzomah and Fulse both received positive reviews for their work in Auburn's 45-21 win over Arkansas in the season-opener, and will be looking for strong play again against San Jose State at 6 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Williams' debut, which featured nine catches, stole plenty of the headlines. But Uzomah and Fulse did well doing the less glamorous things tight ends and H-backs do.
Uzomah, who played just about every position in high school, including quarterback, has no problem with, as they say, his hand down, ready to block or catch.
"I feel a lot more comfortable at the tight end," Uzomah says.
Uzomah will play more tight end. Fulse can be the H-back. Both positions require the selflessness of blocking.
"That's something I'm kind of making my home around, something that I really worked on this offseason," Uzomah said. "I'm starting to feel my way around that spot."
Uzomah caught one pass for 26 yards that came up just short of the goal line against Arkansas. That, and other things, impressed coach Gus Malzahn, who says he likes Uzomah as a classic tight end, at least some of the time.
"Just to present some different challenges," Malzahn said. "Last week, he did a good job blocking with his hand down, but you also saw him with his hand down and go vertical to make a very good catch. So it's kind of expanding his role, and he's done a very good job in the spring, and I thought he performed pretty well for the first time with his hand down primarily."
On Fulse, Malzahn said, "I thought he had a very solid game. He's really raised his level. He's a physical, big, athletic guy and his focus has been very good."
Uzomah says that both he and Fulse are still able to split H-back duties. But Uzomah says he doesn't mind playing tight end, a position, he said, that Auburn had to use big offensive lineman Shon Coleman at last season when blocking was a necessity.
"I kind of wanted it to be where I could do the same," Uzomah said. "Then, if we pick up that first down, we could pace a different play if we need to. Coach Malzahn kind of talked to me about perfecting my craft at hand-down tight end and that’s something I was really adamant about."
A big-play tight end would give opponents even more to worry about.
"We have so many passing threats, Duke, Sammie, Melvin," said Uzomah. "People are going to be like 'Mel is in the game so we have to account for him.' We still have Ricardo, Marcus Davis, we have a plethora of receivers that anytime they are in the game you have to be like 'what’s going to happen?' I definitely think that will spread the ball out for Brandon and myself because they will be looking more at the receivers and we can slip out and make some big-time catches. Until our number is called we’re just going to keep blocking and wait for our opportunity."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine