John Samuel Shenker’s time at Auburn has been anything but traditional.
Originally he was a baseball player, but when Rhett Lashlee came calling, he left for the football field.
In 2017, he redshirted, had three catches for 40 yards and a touchdown in 2018 and three receptions for 21 yards and a touchdown in 2019.
Following the 2019 football season, he tried out and joined Butch Thompson and the baseball team, playing in 11 games and hitting .318 before the season was cut short.
But when the baseball season did end abruptly, it was back to football and learning a whole new offensive scheme under Chad Morris.
Last year Shenker was the only tight end to catch a pass for Auburn, but that’s likely to change this season. While Morris follows a similar scheme to Gus Malzahn, it has a few tweaks, including getting tight ends much more involved.
Last year at Arkansas, Razorback tight ends combined for 45 receptions, 476 yards and five touchdowns. Morris spoke earlier this month about why the tight end position is important in his offense.
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“That position alone creates an opportunity to play at a faster pace or increase mismatches,” Morris said. “How do people want to play you? Are they going to play him as a wide receiver? If they are, they’re going to bring a nickel on the field. If they do that, then this guy will come back into the backfield, and you’re able to run the football well.”
Morris continued discussing how the usage of the tight end position has been a big deal for Auburn.
“Then it’s ‘OK, no, we’re gonna play him as a true tight end,’ Morris said. “Well, great. Then I’ve got the opportunity to get him mismatched in space, whether it’s on option routes, rail routes, or crossing routes,” Morris said. “So it’s really a chess match when it comes to that. Just to be able to disguise and move them around has been really big for us.”
Morris will have plenty of tight ends to choose from this year at Auburn, with Shenker, redshirt freshmen Luke Deal and Tyler Fromm and true freshmen J.J. Pegues and Brandon Frazier.
The new game plan has been a welcome change for Shenker.
“It’s been awesome,” Shenker said Thursday. “Getting in the pass game a little more and not having to block all the time. It’s been a great little adjustment we’ve had this year.”
Behind Shenker, the new guys have looked impressive in practice.
“Every day they do something where you’re like, ‘Normal freshmen don’t do that,’” Shenker said. “You’re going to see that soon.”
Shenker and the tight ends are also learning the route trees, rather than just the specific plays they’d enter the game for, a change from last year.
“You know, last year, we didn’t really have to learn our routes and all that,” Shenker said. “It was just mainly play-based what we had to know. But this year, it’s been fun learning the entire offense, and you know, any given play I could be at any position.”
While football is the focus with the season a little over a week away, Shenker did say he planned to return to the baseball team in the spring.
“I’ll definitely go out next year,” Shenker said.
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