Four-star running back signee Harold Joiner will play in the backfield for the Auburn Tigers, but head coach Gus Malzahn expects him to help fill the void at the tight end position.
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Tight end had been a focus of Auburn’s recruiting class for the last year, but the Tigers failed to land a recruit at the position this time around.
The Tigers signed two tight ends in 2017 -- Sal Cannella and John Samuel Shenker -- but neither were able to contribute much offensively. Shenker didn’t see much of any playing time in the 2017 season while Cannella only had three receptions for 31 yards and consistently dropped balls.
The 6-foot-3, 218 pound running back has the build to compete immediately at the college level and also has the size to contribute at the tight end position.
“Harold Joiner is going to play running back for us,” Malzahn said at his National Signing Day press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 7. “But he does some things that Charles Clay did.
“Out of the backfield, stretching the ball on wheel routes and vertical routes, that will fill somewhat of a void (at the tight end position).”
Charles Clay, who currently plays tight end for the Buffalo Bills, played under Gus Malzahn when they were both at Tulsa.
Clay played halfback and fullback in college, but contributed heavily in the receiving game. Malzahn expects Joiner to contribute in a similar way. Clay, who is 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, has a similar frame as Joiner.
Malzahn noted that the Tigers will continue to focus on the tight end position moving forward in the 2019 class.
“It will be a priority in this next class,” Malzahn said. “Early on I would say tight end and offensive line for this next class will definitely be the priorities.”
The last time Auburn was able to sign a consistent, long-term solution at tight end was when the Tigers signed Philip Lutzenkirchen in 2009.
The Tigers are still looking for a reliable tight end that can contribute heavily on offense, but Malzahn instilled confidence in Joiner that the soon-to-be Tiger will be able to temporarily fill the void at the position.
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