AUBURN — The biggest personnel gain for the Tigers this offseason came at wide receiver with the addition of D’haquille Williams, the top junior college prospect in the country last season.
Williams, at 6-2 and 216 pounds, is the key to Auburn achieving a more balanced offensive attack.
He had five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown on A-Day, showing glimmers of what may be in store this fall. If Williams can deliver on his promise and compliment Sammie Coates, Auburn will have two great outside targets for Nick Marshall to aim for, plus Ricardo Louis and Marcus Davis to keep defenses busy over the middle of the field.
Coates was one of the best deep threats in the country last season and emerged as a leader among the group.
Louis has already etched his legacy with the Prayer on Jordan-Hare and can add new feats to his resume after a productive sophomore season.
Quan Bray offers versatility among the receiving corps, which lost only Trovon Reed, who moved to defense.
C.J. Uzomah gives the Tigers a receiving threat at tight end and will need to work on his blocking to stay on the field over Brandon Fulse, who projects as the lead H-back, in running situations.
Split end: Sammie Coates (6-foot-2, 201 pounds, junior), Quan Bray (5-10, 187 pounds, senior).
Flanker: D’haquille Williams (6-2, 216 pounds, junior), Ricardo Louis (6-2, 212 pounds, junior).
Slot: Marcus Davis (5-9, 174 pounds, sophomore), Quan Bray (5-10, 187 pounds, senior) or Ricardo Louis (6-2, 212 pounds, junior).
H-back: Brandon Fulse (6-4, 272 pounds, senior), C.J. Uzomah (6-4, 264 pounds, senior) or Gage Batten (6-foot, 232 pounds, sophomore).
Tight end: C.J. Uzomah (6-4, 264 pounds, senior), Brandon Fulse (6-4, 272 pounds, senior).
Coates had 42 catches for 902 yards with seven touchdowns in 2013, accounting for more than a third of Auburn’s receiving yards (2,422) and touchdowns (20). It was a huge jump from his redshirt freshman campaign, which was noted more for his tirade than his production.
Just as Marshall’s arrival last year helped radically alter the offense’s abilities, so too can Williams. He’s another tall target for Marshall to aim for and for opposing defenses to worry about.
Davis was a late addition to Auburn’s 2013 recruiting class and proved to be one of the bigger early contributors. He ended up with third-most receptions (23) and yards (217) on the team and a consistent option during the first half of the season.
Uzomah had 11 catches for 154 yards and three touchdowns as well as his share of missed opportunities, as did plenty of other receivers, but his game-winning grab against Mississippi State did far more positive than any drop cost the Tigers later on.
Fulse is a very good blocking tight end and has some experience at H-back last season and last spring. He had just one catch for five yards last season.
Even Jay Prosch, who didn’t have any carries, had five receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown last season.
Louis is capable of playing just about anywhere on the field.
He opened A-Day at flanker and then moved to a slot role on the next play, and had a pair of carries. It was similar to his 28 catches for 325 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Bray and Louis are both adaptable players who can fill outside roles as well as the slot. Their speed allows for more playmaking ability and yards after the catch on quick routes and screens.
Gage Batten was a serviceable backup to Prosch and should be expected to see some reps throughout the season.
Jaylon Denson (6-3, 218 pounds, junior) was at split end before tearing his patellar against LSU. He’s expected to return for preseason camp and was Auburn’s best blocking receiver before his injury.
Tony Stevens (6-4, 198 pounds, sophomore) was unable to live up to all the expectations last season because of a hamstring injury. A healthy second season could see his production go up considerably.
Stanton Truitt was one of the five early enrollees and his versatility lends itself to the slot role. Dominic Walker (6-1, 217 pounds, redshirt freshman) is coming off a redshirt season and is a relative unknown at this point.
Chris Laye (6-4, 236 pounds, freshman) was one of the five early enrollees, and he spent most of his time at tight end in spring practice.
Myron Burton Jr. (6-3, 200 pounds) is the only new wideout this summer and where he’ll end up is not known yet, though the depth at flanker could lead to him being at split end.
Jakell Mitchell (6-4, 215 pounds) is more of an H-back than tight end.
“(Williams) brings a different edge to the room. He brings a mental toughness to the room. He brings the edge out there, when he hits that practice field it’s all about work. He loves to compete. If the ball is in the air, it belongs to him. I think he calls everybody in that room to bring their game to another level and he’s been a pleasant addition to the room.”