Through five weeks, Auburn football’s leading receiver is a tight end.
While that fact may be astonishing to many Auburn fans, it is completely true. Senior tight end John Samuel Shenker leads Auburn’s entire receiving core in yardage through the team’s first five games, with 18 catches for 236 yards.
Last week, in the team’s win against LSU, Shenker led Auburn in receiving yardage with 102 yards on five catches. That stat line was not only a career-high for the senior but the most yardage by an Auburn tight end since the mid-90s.
“I have realized my role has been more crucial in the passing game,” Shenker said. “Just catch the ball and make plays. It has been awesome to get into the pass game."
Shenker does not have a score this year, but his catches have been more than crucial in setting up scores, and eventual victories.
Against Georgia State, Shenker caught a pass over the middle of the field from backup quarterback T.J. Finley on Auburn’s final drive. Shenker made a diving snag that went for 19-yards and set up Auburn’s game-winning score four plays later.
Down in Baton Rouge against LSU, Shenker had three catches through Auburn’s first two scoring drives. Combined with tight end Tyler Fromm, Auburn tight ends in Death Valley had 142 receiving yards on eight catches and one score, courtesy of Fromm.
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Before the season began, head coach Bryan Harsin and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo made it abundantly clear to players and media that tight ends were going be a key part of the offense. Shenker said it changed his football career.
“It gave me new life,” Shenker said. “It definitely reenergizes your commitment."
As for what has changed this year in making him a bigger part of the offense, Shenker said strengthening his connection with Nix made all the difference.
"You understand his tendencies and what he likes and what he doesn't like in his routes,” Shenker said. “Getting that time and finally getting to use that in the passing game, it's been a lot of fun"
As an offense, Auburn has had to come from behind to win in two straight games. When asked if that takes a toll on an offense’s mindset, Shenker said that the offense doesn’t worry.
“There is a lot of camaraderie on this offensive side,” Shenker said. “When we get in an offensive battle, we have each other's backs.”
Auburn has played two road games in the past three games, in arguably two of the toughest environments in college football. Both Happy and Death Valley are heralded for the loudness and intensity within the stadiums. This weekend against No. 2 Georgia, Shenker wants to show that Jordan-Hare Stadium is football’s loudest venue.
"I am tired of these hard away games, they're pretty rough,” Shenker said. “I am pretty sure Jordan-Hare stacks up with the best in the country."
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