Gus Malzahn and his staff aren’t quite sure what to do with 6-foot-4, 214-pound true freshman Harold Joiner.
Joiner has been heralded as a “unique specimen” since arriving on campus. The Mountain Brook product (Birmingham, Ala.) was recruited as an H-back, but Malzahn and company always had a multi-faceted role envisioned.
Auburn had the former No. 4 player in the state in the running back room in the summer, then moved him to receivers, where he’d been for all of fall camp. That was, until the second scrimmage, when Joiner received ample carries as a tailback.
“He’s a versatile guy,” Auburn running backs coach Tim Horton said Thursday. “Yesterday he did get some carries at running back. We’re probably going to tinker with him and make sure he’s homed in on what to do at running back, because he really did a good job.
“He’s got a really interesting skillset because he’s so big; he can run the ball, he’s got ball skills, he can run routes. That’ll be someone who will be interesting to just see how his role evolves, because I don’t know if we know for sure what it’s going to be.”
In addition to standard handoffs, Joiner worked with JaTarvious Whitlow, Chandler Cox and Malik Willis as a Wildcat quarterback, according to Horton.
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Cox has the experience, having taken direct snaps since 2016. Whitlow was a high school quarterback who has displayed tremendous athleticism, and Willis is one of the quickest offensive players. Joiner brings pure power and size.
“When he carried the ball in the scrimmage, he was trying to run guys over,” Auburn receivers coach Kodi Burns said. “And it was really impressive how physical he’s trying to be.”
Burns said when Joiner is with his group as opposed to Horton’s, he lines up in the slot behind tight end Sal Cannella. The Tigers are expecting lost production there for a portion of the season as 2017 starter Will Hastings continues to rehab from an ACL injury.
Auburn might not require Joiner’s ability right away, opening an opportunity for him play four games or less and redshirt. But after Cox graduates this year, the Tigers will need a replacement at H-back, and Joiner’s raw skillset will continue to be molded into a weapon that Auburn hopes proves problematic to gameplan for.
“That’s exactly what you want is versatility,” Burns said. “That’s what Harold Joiner brings. He’s right at 6-4, 215, and he’ll be 225 when it’s all said and done. The fact that he can play running back and play receiver is scary for a defense, I think, because that’s a matchup nightmare … you can do multiple things with him and he’s going to bring it.”
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