Posted by Jerry Hinnen
We mentioned in the wake of Barrett Trotter's departure from the Auburn football program that Gene Chizik appeared to be looking to move in a pro-style direction with his new offensive coordinator hire--a decision that looks even more likely with the delay in replacing Gus Malzahn rumored to be due to Chizik interviewing candidates still involved in the NFL playoffs. But the arrival of a new transfer from Illinois now makes that philosophical shift look more likely than ever.
That player is Illini fullback Jay Prosch, a Mobile (Ala.) native who will be transferring to Auburn in order to be closer to his ailing mother, who is battling cancer. New Illinois head coach Tim Beckman announced Prosch's decision in a statement Wednesday.
"Jay Prosch has decided to transfer to Auburn and will be there for the current semester," Beckman said. "He will have an opportunity to be much closer to his mother, who continues to face health issues. We wish Jay the best as he makes this move."
Prosch could be available for the Tigers as soon as the 2012 season, if the NCAA approves a hardship waiver due to his mother's health; if not, he will redshirt during his transfer year and return with two years of eligibility remaining in 2013.
Though the transfer of few fullbacks would make headlines, Prosch isn't any ordinary fullback. He was named a first-team All-American by Pro Football Weekly, an honor that essentially amounts to the publication naming the sophomore the FBS's top pro prospect at the position. Prosch became the Illini's starting lead blocker as a true freshman and helped the team to an 11th-place finish in rushing in 2010, thanks in large part to his workout-warrior strength and devotion to the weight room.
Prosch recently admitted to the Mobile Press-Register that he may have considered staying in Champaign if not for the Illini's head coaching change, which will see the team move to a spread system that doesn't utilize fullbacks; Beckman reportedly told Prosch he would be used as either an H-back or tight end, and with Prosch claiming he's "never been trained in running pass routes," a diminishing role appeared to be a certainty.
But this begs the question: why transfer to Auburn, whose offense under Malzahn also rarely (if ever) used a traditional fullback? Prosch said he had been cleared to talk to 11 of the 12 SEC schools (the Illini prohibited him from following ex-Illini assistant and newly-hired coordinator Paul Petrino to Arkansas), many of which already employ pro-style offenses and use Prosch-like fullbacks far more regularly than the Tigers.
The answer is very, very likely to be that Auburn is about to become the sort of team that regularly uses a fullback. And fortunately for Chizik, his team stands poised to start by using one of the nation's best.
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