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Leadership at WR

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Who will Auburn turn to for leadership at wide receiver in 2017?

Tom Green | tgreen@al.com

While Auburn needs replace its leading receiver this season, the Tigers must also fill a leadership void at the position.

Gone are leading receiver Tony Stevens and team captain Marcus Davis, whose collective experience -- in tenure, if not necessarily production -- was important for a young corps of receivers in 2016. What's left is a youthful group of receivers that includes just two seniors, neither of which spent their entire career at Auburn or provided much in terms of on-field production.

So, where do Auburn's receivers turn to for leadership this spring as they prepare for 2017?

"Jason (Smith) is the older guy, and we look to him," rising sophomore Nate Craig-Myers said. "We all have a different role, so we look to each other and feed off each other."

Smith is one of two seniors at the position, with the other being John Franklin III, who has never played the position and is still seeing time at quarterback but will move to receiver full-time should he not win the Tigers' starting job at quarterback. While Smith is entering his third year at Auburn, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder -- himself a former quarterback -- has not been a reliable option at receiver during his time on the Plains.

He was a little-used option last season, when he appeared in 10 games and made just one start (against Texas A&M) and caught just four passes for 60 yards while also seeing some time at quarterback in practice midway through the season. In 2015, Smith had 13 receptions for 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Although Smith is certainly the elder statesman of a group that this spring includes one junior, four sophomores and a redshirt freshman among its scholarship players, the collective youthful inexperience at receiver is affording several younger receivers an opportunity to step up.

"I'd say different guys (step up) each day," offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said. "You start loving one guy too much and then he does something that makes you maybe not like him that much for that day. No, that group is really improving. Kodi (Burns) is doing a great job with them.

"Their deal is they have to continue to put good days back to back together, and by the end of the spring hopefully we'll be much improved."

The receiver position has also been thin to start spring practices, as sophomore Kyle Davis has not participated the first two weeks while handling "personal business," and redshirt sophomore Darius Slayton has been limited while recovering from hernia surgery earlier this year. While Kyle Davis is expected back when the team reconvenes after spring break, his and Slayton's absences have left Auburn repping three walk-ons -- Will Hastings, James Owens Moss and Griffin King -- on the two-deep at receiver.

 

What Auburn plans to do with 2 receivers out until after spring break

What Auburn plans to do with 2 receivers out until after spring break

Auburn's two most productive returning wide receivers will miss the start of spring practice but are expected to return after spring break.

 

"It's given some opportunity for other guys to get a lot of work, that's for sure," Lindsey said. "It's a good group as a whole. Obviously, we have some things to improve on and that young group played in the SEC early last year so they grew up fast. At the same time, I think this is a big spring for them and their development."

Although Auburn lost its leading receiver in Stevens, who caught 31 passes for 487 yards and three touchdowns, the Tigers do return four of their top five receiving options from 2016 in Slayton (15 receptions, 292 yards and a touchdown), Kyle Davis (12 receptions, 248 yards and two touchdowns), sophomore Eli Stove (23 receptions for 224 yards) and junior Ryan Davis (25 receptions, 194 yards and a touchdown). Add in Craig-Myers, whose "frustrating" freshman campaign was riddled with minor injuries, and redshirt freshman Marquis McClain, and the Tigers believe there are enough pieces to make up for any perceived weaknesses at the position, especially as Lidnsey looks to expand the passing game in 2017.

"I think we're more experienced," Craig-Myers said. "I feel like we're taking coaching well. We're a lot of young guys, but now we've got one year under our belt. I feel like we're doing a pretty good job."

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Really hoping Smith has gotten past whatever attitude issues he had and is ready to lead like a senior this season. 

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Man was I wrong about Smith,I really thought he would turn in to a great wr for us,but overall  he just hasn't produced.Maybe he can still have a good senior year and prove me right.

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I never thought Smith would become a leader...I think coming in like he did, he had a lot to overcome. And he is simply an athlete first, and having to learn the WR position. Hopefully in his senior year he will have better success with our new OC using his best weapons. 

I really have no idea who will be the WR leaders..they are so young, or played so little. I can see Slayton, or even Stove providing some leadership. I think the players will tell more as to who they rely on...and it usually comes with WRs that have success on the field or has the energy to show the others confidence...

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Don't count out JFIII as a leader at WR  link

Quote

Entering his final season at Auburn, former junior college transfer John Franklin III appears willing to do whatever is asked of him to make a contribution to the team, even if that includes moving to another position.

While the transition would certainly be hard to make for any college athlete, Franklin has embraced the move by dropping multiple hype videos of himself working hard to craft his skills at receiver. Here’s his latest video, which he tweeted out Thursday:

 
d0Ca2m0jC_0zqb8o.jpg

They put in @KSlash10 for the win!!! Now it's time for J5 to get live!!! #Slash2.0🌊

That video followed this one, which was released Wednesday:

....Loading⏳#Slash2.0

After being pegged by many as the likely starting quarterback for the Tigers last offseason, Franklin failed to contribute in any meaningful way with his arm, doing most of his damage for Auburn with his legs. With Jarrett Stidham now on the team after transferring in from Baylor and taking as many reps with the first-team offense as possible with Sean White sidelined for the spring, Franklin had little shot at competing for the starting role in Chip Lindsey’s offense. When you add in the spring emergence of redshirt freshman Woody Barrett, who coaches will likely give every opportunity to gain reps this spring, transitioning outside of the pocket was the natural move for Franklin.

Although, we likely haven’t seen the last of Franklin at quarterback, as he indicated with his hashtag of Slash2.0, don’t be surprised when Auburn uses him all over the field this fall – including taking snaps at quarterback.

Despite his inability to make a splash as Auburn’s starting quarterback last season, maybe Franklin can finally live up to the hype as a slash receiver on the Plains.

 

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I kind'a hope that our QB(s) will appropriately lead the WRs

in full stride with a clear field

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1 hour ago, lkeel75 said:

Don't count out JFIII as a leader at WR  link

 

He always seem to put in the extra work. Rooting for him to find success 

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