Blake trying to be Auburn’s go-to receiver

Emory Blake wanted to score touchdowns, not throw for them.

The Auburn receiver didn’t try to be a quarterback like his

father and longtime NFL passer Jeff Blake, who scored an average of

one touchdown during each of his 14 pro seasons.

”He wanted to get into the end zone,” Jeff Blake said. ”I

can’t blame him.”

Blake got that chance eight times last season and eventually

emerged as one of Cam Newton’s favorite targets. He figures to play

an even bigger role for the defending national champions in

2011.

The other established receivers are gone, along with Newton.

That leaves Blake and a group that caught seven balls among them

last season trying to fill the void.

He brings the seasoning that comes from growing up around NFL

locker rooms, practices and games and getting tutorials from a

pro.

Blake also brings enough confidence that he doesn’t back away

from the bold assessment of receivers coach Trooper Taylor.

”He’s one of the best receivers in the SEC because he can make

plays, guys,” Taylor said.

Blake thinks he can live up to that billing after two years

behind Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery.

”I definitely do. I feel confident that I can,” he said.

”Playing a lot last year and making some of the plays that I did

and coming back this year, I felt really confident on the field,

and I feel like I can be one of the best receivers in the

SEC.”

Blake was the team’s No. 3 receiver last season but caught 24

passes for 353 yards and four touchdowns over Auburn’s final six

games. He also had the longest play from scrimmage in school

history with a 94-yard touchdown catch against

Louisiana-Monroe.

By comparison, fellow returnees Quindarius Carr, Travante

Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton combined for four catches, and

highly touted freshman Trovon Reed was redshirted due to injury

problems.

That leaves Blake and a group of untested players to field

passes from Barrett Trotter, Clint Moseley or incoming freshman

Kiehl Frazier. It’s similar to the situation Taylor faced two years

ago, when Adams and Zachery went from five combined catches in 2008

to 86 the following season.

So Taylor spouts off cracks like ”The talent is gone” and

”The real players are gone” in practice and posted a less than

glowing newspaper article on the receiver situation on his office

wall.

”I want to see if they’re going to react to that,” Taylor

said. ”If you sit back and take something, you tolerate or accept

it, you encourage it. What I want them to understand is that that’s

everyone else’s perception. I talk to them about it every day. I

want them to realize that.”

The message hardly seems necessary for Blake, who arrived on

campus two years ago seeming mature and poised off the field for an

18-year-old freshman. That’s no coincidence, his father says.

”He’s been there, done that,” Jeff Blake said. ”It’s like he

was in the pros and had to go back to college almost.”

After all, the younger Blake grew up around NFL locker rooms,

practices and games. His father played for seven NFL teams from

1992-2005 and passed for much of his 21,711 career yards with the

Cincinnati Bengals.

Taylor first noticed him a decade ago when he was coaching with

Tulane and Jeff Blake played for the New Orleans Saints, but only

because his son played rec league ball at the same time.

Blake was a receiver at Stephen F. Austin High School in Texas

but started out as a running back in Pop Warner, and idolized

famous runners Barry Sanders and Jerome Bettis.

”He actually cried when Barry retired,” Jeff Blake said.

”Then he started wearing a Jerome Bettis jersey.”

He even had a picture hanging in his room with his father,

himself and Bettis, along with another of the younger Blake with

NFL quarterbacks Steve McNair and Daunte Culpepper.

Those were hardly the biggest benefits of growing up the son of

an NFL quarterback. Jeff Blake retired after his son’s ninth-grade

season, and that’s when the fun games of catch also became

route-running tutorial sessions on how to read and react to

different types of coverages and other finer points of

football.

That’s when it became, ”Hey man, I’m going to hit you, run the

post, run the quick out.”

”He grew up in a football family,” Taylor said. ”His mom can

tell you coverages and routes.”

Now, Blake is working at all four of Auburn’s receiver spots,

and is the leading candidate to replace fill Adams’ role.

”That’s very exciting because that means I’m going to get the

ball in my hands more,” Blake said.

And maybe score more touchdowns.