BY RYAN BLACK | firstname.lastname@example.org
After struggling during the first few practices of fall camp, the former linebacker has started to turn the corner on grasping his responsibilities as an H-back. The redshirt freshman’s improvement has been significant, according to his new position coach, Scott Fountain.
“These last two practices, he’s really come on,” Fountain said. “We felt like if we could bring him over (to the offense), he could be a good blocker for us on our power, our counter game. It’s what we needed, and he’s starting to show a lot of promise. I’m really excited for the young guy.”
Batten’s position change took on more importance after Ricky Parks was dismissed for a violation of team rules on the first day of fall camp. Parks exited the spring as the Jay Prosch’s backup. Fountain said if Batten was still on defense, it likely would have meant an increased role for both C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse at H-back.
He’s just glad that situation is only a hypothetical at this point.
“(Batten) making the progress that he has really got me very, very excited,” Fountain said, “regardless of whether we would have had (Parks) or not.”
MORE FOUNTAIN QUOTES
On the improvements he’s seen from Prosch, Uzomah and Brandon Fulse:
“C.J. is a guy I told after the spring, ‘The thing we’re going to have to get you better at is run-blocking. I want you to focus on that this summer.’ And in camp I’ve been super impressed with how far he’s come. I see a guy that I feel like can really help us as a split-side tight end and in the backfield, whereas Jay is kind of a backfield guy at heart. Then we’ve got Brandon Fulse who has stood out at the 5 and at tight end. … And at times, you’ll see them on the field together.”
On Prosch’s pass-catching:
“I knew he could block this spring, but I wasn’t sure what else he could do. And boy, he’s a guy that can catch, and he just keeps getting better and better. He’s a guy that we can trust catching the football.”
More on Fulse’s progress:
“He’s more focused in terms of what we’re doing in our route game. He’s a guy that can block fairly well coming out of spring. In high school he (played) in tight spaces, and now we’re doing a lot more of that with them. He’s a guy that’s an emerging player in practice, so I’m expecting some big things out of him this year, too.”
On Uzomah’s versatility allowing him to play at nearly any offensive skill position:
“He’s a guy that No. 1, is willing to do it. You’re normally catching the ball, and now you’ve got to put your hand down and block Dee Ford. So that part is really hard. And then once past that, then you’ve got the mental aspect of learning the different positions. There is some carryover, but I think he’s the guy who’s most versatile for us, and those guys are really hard to find.
On how much his background as a high school quarterback helps:
“Coach Malzahn is really big on wanting to sign quarterbacks and inserting them into the offense. And I think that’s been really big for (Uzomah), but I also think his approach to it. There’s no question his quarterback background in high school him understand the whole grand scheme of coverages and fronts and things like that.”