AUBURN | Larry Porter had to know what he had in Sal Cannella as soon as possible.
Porter, Auburn’s first year tight ends coach, got a chance to test Cannella, a junior college signee that enrolled in January, early in spring practice.
“When we first put his hand in the dirt, I just wanted to see if he’d hit you and fight you,” Porter said.
His answer came quickly.
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“That’s exactly what he did,” Porter said. “He fought, he strained, and with that the rest is kind of in my court as far as developing his footwork and pad level and hand placement and all those things that go along with being able to execute from an attached standpoint.”
Cannella was used more as a detached tight end in the slot at Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College were he caught 29 passes for 449 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
Auburn needed a tight end with more advanced pass-catching skills, which Cannella certainly provides. But they also need one that can stay on the field for all three downs, which means being a reliable blocker too.
Canella, who is listed as 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds on the spring roster, is working to become a complete tight end.
“He has continued to get stronger and put more weight on,” Porter said. “He’s not far from the standpoint of where he needs to be weight-wise. Strength-wise, he’s coming. He’s doing extra. That’s been good. Coach (Ryan) Russell has complimented him on staying afterwards and doing extra so that’s good.”
Porter said it will be up to Cannella how much he plays this season and how big of an impact he has on the offense.
“We’re going to definitely give him an opportunity and the more he shows us that we can use him in certain situations, the more we’ll use him. He’ll certainly dictate how much we use him and how much we target him,” Porter said.
“We’re all aware of his skill set when he’s detached, when he’s out there and flexed out in terms of route running, being able to catch the ball and being creative. So Sal is a guy that we feel really good about at this time.”