Taking on the pressure

AUBURN, Ala. -- C.J. Uzomah is ready for the challenge.

Uzomah has big-play ability at the TE position.

The Auburn tight end showed flashes of big-play ability last season including a 27-yard touchdown catch against Texas A&M and enters his junior season on the Mackey Award watch list.

Uzomah, however, has his sights set on much bigger team goals.

“Personal accolades and individual accolades are rewarding but we’re hoping to make it to the Dome and the national championship. That’s what our sights are on,” Uzomah said.

Despite last year’s losing record, Uzomah and his teammates enter this season with high expectations. Uzomah credited Gus Malzahn and the new coaching staff and their ‘New Day’ attitude in building confidence.

And Uzomah and his teammates are prepared to handle the pressure of their own increased expectations.

“I think that pressure is going to be there no matter what. It’s up to us to step up to the plate and take it head-on,” he said.

Uzomah plans to be a versatile players for Auburn this season. He said he’s split his time between tight end/H-back and wide receiver this summer.

“I was trying to focus a little more on my blocking and putting my hand in the dirt just because that’s still been a huge emphasis on me personally,” he said. “Coach (Rhett) Lashlee and Coach (Scott) Fountain have talked to Brandon (Fulse) and I about how they want to utilize us in this offense.

Auburn TE C.J. Uzomah 7-23-13

“Splitting us out a little bit is one of the things we’re going to have to do, blocking the corner, blocking the safety, blocking the defensive end. We’re going to be moving around a lot and trying our best to help the team win.”

One of the biggest questions marks for the Tigers this season is the lack of proven playmakers at the receiver position. Uzomah said the group, including the tight ends, have worked hard this offseason to step up their play.

“I think everybody would want to be that guy in a pressure situation to step up on third down of if you need a last-second touchdown then who are you going to throw it to? Everyone is working and battling to fill that position,” he said. “I think this offseason everybody has been training their hardest to be that guy and that’s a huge positive.”

More from Uzomah.....

On offseason workouts...

“For me personally the offseason has gone really well. Collectively as a team Coach (Ryan) Russell has gotten us in shape like never before. I think everybody has been PR’ing (personal record) with their numbers and getting bigger and stronger and faster. Everything has been going really well.”

On the freshmen wide receivers...

“They are just as anxious to get out there as I have ever seen a freshman class, including our freshman class. They have wanted to be in with the first, second, and third group no matter what. They are always asking to get in, asking for advice, asking for tips on how to shake a corner or something like that. They have been really sure-handed. I think those guys coming in are going to impact us a lot.”

On a standout freshman receiver...

“I honestly don’t know all their names, but the kid with gold teeth (Tony Stevens) that is from Florida with dreads has shocked me so far. I think he has been doing a lot. He has grown up a lot because you’ve got to have that growing up stage from high school to college. I think he has grown up a lot.”

On quarterbacks Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson...

“I think they are ready to do their best and perform and come in to fight for the quarterback position. Obviously Jonathan and Kiehl and have been in this offense a little bit. Jonathan, as film-heavy as he is, isn’t having a huge problem picking up on it. Jeremy and Nick can throw the ball. They’ve been in the film room. They’re antsy for camp to get here. They’re going to be a threat at the quarterback position.”

More on the competition at quarterback...

“I think it’s honestly as wide open as it has ever been. They have all been throwing the ball really well and competing and making the right reads and not making huge mistakes this offseason. I think the door is wide open.”

On the importance of having veterans that already know offense...

“I think it’s huge because watching film and looking at a playbook is one thing, but having people that have played in the offense and been in the offense that can help you fine-tune the little things, especially with someone as meticulous and Malzahn and Lashlee, I think that pays dividends.”

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