What will the next chapter of Auburn's tight end renaissance look like?
Following two years of increased TE production, the Tigers have even more depth, experience and explosiveness to start a new era.
TE Rivaldo Fairweather (Austin Perryman/Auburn Athletics)
If Rivaldo Fairweather catches a touchdown pass Saturday during Auburn’s A-Day Game, you will want to pay close attention to what he does after that.
Fairweather is in the midst of what he called “the best spring” he’s ever had. It’s all been a whirlwind for the 6-foot-4, 251-pound tight end from the Miami area.
He didn’t start playing football until his junior year of high school — and, as friend of the newsletter Richard Silva wrote at the Montgomery Advertiser recently, he started out as a punter. Fairweather later switched to tight end, where he caught 40 passes for 812 yards and 15 touchdowns in just his second season in the sport. He then spent the next three seasons at nearby FIU, compiling 54 receptions for 838 yards.
A self-described “late bloomer,” Fairweather’s first love was basketball. (His family’s love was soccer, as his father named both him and his older brother Ronaldo after two of the most famous Brazilian midfielders who have ever lived.) His game on the hardwood was all dunks, rebounds and tough fouls.
And Fairweather said he just might dunk the football through the goalposts whenever he gets his first touchdown at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The A-Day Game would be a perfect time for it, since he’s less likely to get slapped with an excessive celebration penalty.
“When I score, I’m always so emotional and I express myself a lot,” Fairweather said earlier this spring. “So, I’m going to have to do that. … I might go between the legs, just for y’all.”
Fairweather has already started practicing his celebrations this season, adding that he has created a secret “signature” move with Auburn wide receiver and fellow South Florida native Camden Brown.
And that’s been encouraged by Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze, who makes sure touchdowns in practices are celebrated as a team. This shows up the most in pace drills, when the offense rips down the field at a breakneck tempo, working through sequences of no-huddle plays.
Fairweather has been a fixture in that drill this spring, consistently lining up with the first-team offense. With the second unit, two more tight ends — Luke Deal and Tyler Fromm — are often on the field together.
Freeze and offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery might be known first and foremost for spread-it-out, four-wide offenses. But they’ve inherited a deep and experienced tight end room that has laid a solid foundation for their Year 1 together.
“Rivaldo (has) made some phenomenal catches,” Freeze said recently. “I think we’re solid at the tight end room. Luke Deal’s an incredible leader (with) Tyler Fromm. That’s a really solid room that sets the culture that you want for this team.”
If you’re looking for any positives from the previous staff’s two-season stint at Auburn, the usage of tight ends might be your best bet. The Tigers went from rarely targeting them for most of the Gus Malzahn era to having John Samuel Shenker break program records at the position.
But, like an inside linebacker strategy that put a massive workload on just the starters, Auburn didn’t really capitalize on all the numbers it had at tight end — at least not through the air.
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