There will be battles for starting jobs at many positions this spring at Auburn, but tight end won't be one of them.
Philip Lutzenkirchen returns for his senior season already holding the school's career touchdown receptions record by a tight end with 14.
"I'm very excited about 'Lutz'," tight ends coach Jay Boulware said. "He's a senior. I've had him since he was a puppy, a true freshman, and he has developed nicely. He really has."
In three seasons at Auburn, Lutzenkirchen has 44 receptions for 489 yards and the 14 scores. As a junior in 2011, he was named second-team All-SEC after catching 24 passes for 238 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns. His 24 receptions were third-highest on the team.
But catching the football isn't the only thing Lutzenkirchen does well.
"Everyone knows he has great hands, but I've been really impressed with his development as a blocking tight end," said Boulware. "He's a really good blocker now at the point of attack.
"The thing that he has had since he's been here is great hands, but what he has worked hard at is really becoming a great blocker. He has taken pride in becoming a great blocker. We feel like we can match him up with any defensive end in the league and he can handle them. That's big for us."
Behind Lutzenkirchen will be a pair of sophomores in Brandon Fulse and C.J. Uzomah. Junior Blake Burgess, who competed for the starting job at center a year ago, has made the move to tight end to give the Tigers more depth.
Fulse played as a true freshman in 2011, appearing in all 13 games and catching two passes for 12 yards. Uzomah also played as a true freshman last season, but all but one of his game reps came at the wide receiver position.
"Fulse needs to develop as a better receiver this spring," said Boulware. "It's not as natural for him like it was for 'Lutz', but I hope he develops at it and becomes a great receiver for us this spring because we will need him.
"Uzomah played wideout last year so this will be a new position for him this spring. I'm curious to see how he develops. The only concern with him is seeing how he develops, especially at blocking since he has not worked with the tight ends, yet."
Having the experience of Lutzenkirchen, the potential of Fulse and Uzomah, as well as more depth with Burgess, gives Boulware reason to be excited about the position in 2012. He also has 2012 signees Ricky Parks and Darrion Hutcherson scheduled to arrive in the summer.
"I'm excited about all of the guys," said Boulware. "I'm excited about having 'Lutz' back, not only because he's such a great player, but a great leader and teacher, too. It will be good for us having those young guys see him and his work ethic for another year.
"I'm really excited about the position, not only this year, but for years to come."
Auburn begins spring practice Friday at 8:30 a.m. CST.