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Receivers...what we know and what we don't

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What we know, don’t know about Auburn’s wide receivers | Football

Josh Vitale | AU Writer Follow on Twitter Like on Facebook

5-6 minutes

Auburn’s passing game was the bigger question on offense going into the 2017 season. Running backs Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway were back, so there were no concerns on the ground. Through the air, the Tigers had a new quarterback, a new offensive coordinator with new passing concepts, and a relatively inexperienced group of wide receivers.

That’s certainly not the case going into the 2018 season. In fact, it might be the complete opposite. Auburn’s running backs unproven. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham more than proved himself as a passer as he became just the second player in program history to throw for 3,000 yards in a single season.

Five wide receivers who caught double-digit passes from Stidham during that campaign are back for another one this year. Still, there are some questions that need to be answered this fall.

Here’s a look at what we know and don’t know about the Tigers’ pass-catching corps:

THE LINEUP

Ryan Davis (Sr.), Will Hastings (Sr.), Darius Slayton (Jr.), Nate Craig-Myers (Jr.), Eli Stove (Jr.), Marquis McClain (So.), Shedrick Jackson (Fr.), Matthew Hill (Fr.), Seth Williams (Fr.), Anthony Schwartz (Fr.)

WHAT WE KNOW

What we know is that Davis is again going to be the focal point. We didn’t know that last season, when he entered his junior season with just 25 career catches for 194 yards, but we certainly do now.

Auburn’s quarterbacks completed 255 passes last season. Davis caught 84 of those (or 33.3 percent) for 815 yards and five touchdowns. The touchdown total tied for the team lead. The yardage total led the team and ranked seventh in the SEC. The catch total ranked first in the SEC by nine and set a new single-season program record, shattering the previous mark of 60 set by Darvin Adams in 2009.

Davis led all SEC receivers with an 87.3-percent catch rate out of the slot last season, per Pro Football Focus, but Auburn used him all over the field and surely will again this year, especially given the ACL injuries suffered by two of those top five returners, Hastings and Stove.

The senior will be a better-known commodity among opposing defenses this year than he was when he burst onto the scene last season, but the same could have been said during the latter half of the 2017 campaign, and he still averaged more than seven catches and 72 yards per game after the start of November.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

What we don’t know is how exactly Auburn will end up filling in the holes left by Stove and Hastings, who are expected to miss at least a portion of the season with their ACL injuries, if not all of it. Stove caught 29 passes for 265 yards (and rushed 30 times for 315 yards) from the flanker spot last year, and Hastings caught 26 balls for 525 yards and four scores out of the slot.

Auburn returns Slayton (29 catches, 643 yards, five touchdowns) and Craig-Myers (16 catches, 285 yards, three scores), so it’s not as if Davis will be the lone experienced veteran in the passing game without Stove and Hastings. But Auburn will need some other players to step up for as long as Stove and Hastings are sidelined.

The two most interesting options are probably Schwartz and Devan Barrett. The latter is a running back by trade, but the Tigers began trying him in a dual role toward the end of spring practice. He rushed four times for 39 yards and caught four passes for no gain on A-Day, and while the numbers don’t stand out, the usage does — Barrett lined up mostly at wide receiver, but he caught the ball on swing and screen passes and carried it on both jet sweeps and after motioning into the backfield.

“A lot of times in our offense, you can take a running back or a receiver, put him in that slot and he can be your speed sweep guy," running backs coach Tim Horton said in April. "He knew what to do, obviously everything with the running back stuff, but he was a quick learner with the receiver stuff."

Schwartz is a true freshman who hasn’t even officially joined Auburn for workouts just yet, but that’s only because he’s preparing to run in the IAAF U20 World Track and Field Championships in two weeks. The four-star signee is the fastest youth sprinter in the nation — he won the 100-meter dash at the USATF Junior Outdoor Championships last month with a time of 10.23 seconds — and probably has Auburn’s coaching staff salivating over what kind of weapon he could be in the passing game with his speed.

THEY SAID IT

“I feel very confident. I know Ryan Davis, Nate, Darius, obviously the guys that have played a lot, we all have extreme confidence in those young guys. I think that they can definitely step up.” — Jarrett Stidham

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I REALLY hope NCM finally lives up to his recruiting ranking. He has been my favorite player since he stepped foot on campus, and hasn't done much of anything so far in 2 seasons. 

Hopefully he has a breakout season this year. 

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1 hour ago, Hspoprn said:

Also, we have a WR who is 5' 8" tall committed for 2019.  WTH ?

check out his thread in the recruiting area.  I think this was discussion for this years WRs.

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15 hours ago, Hspoprn said:

Also, we have a WR who is 5' 8" tall committed for 2019.  WTH ?

Must've been a clerical error. We couldn't possibly have knowingly offered him. Gus probably said WTH too when he realized how short the kid is. We've really had too many of these mistakes. Something needs to be done.

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16 hours ago, Hspoprn said:

Also, we have a WR who is 5' 8" tall committed for 2019.  WTH ?

 

56 minutes ago, McLoofus said:

Must've been a clerical error. We couldn't possibly have knowingly offered him. Gus probably said WTH too when he realized how short the kid is. We've really had too many of these mistakes. Something needs to be done.

Makes you wonder.

cool-hand-luke-quotes-3.gif

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Outside of Ryan Davis, I'm not sure we can judge our WRs on what they can and can't do to a certain degree. Bottom line is we need to develop a better passing attack. I do think that they have to get better at getting separation. However, at the same time, I think there were often moments where JS was too hesitant to throw the ball when WRs were open. That's at least one thing I hope JS has improved on; in regards to throwing open his receivers and/or trusting a WR like NCM to go up and get the ball. I think we have really athletic WRs to not take advantage of them. I hope and pray that Chip has developed a passing attack and he'll actually get to implement it in games. 

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11 minutes ago, WarEagle1983 said:

Outside of Ryan Davis, I'm not sure we can judge our WRs on what they can and can't do to a certain degree. Bottom line is we need to develop a better passing attack. I do think that they have to get better at getting separation. However, at the same time, I think there were often moments where JS was too hesitant to throw the ball when WRs were open. That's at least one thing I hope JS has improved on; in regards to throwing open his receivers and/or trusting a WR like NCM to go up and get the ball. I think we have really athletic WRs to not take advantage of them. I hope and pray that Chip has developed a passing attack and he'll actually get to implement it in games. 

Boy howdy, that's a big "and". 

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47 minutes ago, McLoofus said:

Boy howdy, that's a big "and". 

Sadly...you're right!

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Forgive me if this has already been discussed. Ryan Davis is a SR. His freshman season consisted of one play, if I remember correctly. Can the new redshirt rule be retroactive to give him and others an extra year? @ellitor

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15 minutes ago, alexava said:

Forgive me if this has already been discussed. Ryan Davis is a SR. His freshman season consisted of one play, if I remember correctly. Can the new redshirt rule be retroactive to give him and others an extra year? @ellitor

No it's not retroactive. It's a move forward only rule.

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1 minute ago, ellitor said:

No it's not retroactive. It's a move forward only rule.

?

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Here is my question.  Stove, Davis, Myers, and McClain were considered to be one of the best WR classes in the modern era for Auburn.  Davis created his issue but were these kids overrated by everyone including a who's who among college coaches or are we not finding ways to use that talent?  It's hard to get excited about any WR signing with Auburn until Gus can turn that talent into something more than a blocking machine.  Our rivals recruit equal talent at the position and those players show up as freshman and sophomores who live up to the billing.  Ours come to Auburn, open the dictionary to the M's, and find the word mediocre.  Don't take a great athletic talent and remove that athletic talent by making a kid think to much or learn to be a blocker or not play.  Use them for what they are and improve their game by feeding them the things that will make them a complete player.  In my opinion Gus, with all skill players, wants to make a kid good at everything before he can see the field.  It would be easier to recruit TE's and have them lose weight lol.  In all seriousness, was tiny Mecole Hardman a good blocker for UGA his freshman year? No, but they used his talent at what he was good at.  Was Calvin Ridley a good blocker on the perimeter his freshman year. No, but they used him for what he was good at.  It is time for Gus to start using the kids he recruits for what they are good at and stop trying to make them something they are not.

There is a difference in playing in games and being successful and being told you need to improve on your blocking when the ball doesn't come to you and being told you can't play in games until you prove yourself as a blocker.  NCM and McClain are examples of you ain't playing till you can do this or that.  We have all heard and read about how these kids need to get their attitude right and show more effort with the little things before they can play more.  They were stud WRs.  They catch balls and make plays.  Hell they catch balls and make plays in their extremely minimal opportunities that they get.  A Ferrari does you no good in Atlanta traffic.  Why drive it when the top speed is 35. 

Edited by NorthGATiger
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IMHO, NCM is gonna have a big breakout year!!!

Ive been hoping/wanting to see MM in that Big Slot/TE role since he got here.  Still hoping....

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Last season Stidham passed for the second most yards of any QB in program history. I read elsewhere that AU was 3rd in the SEC in passing yards. That's on a team that is and will continue to be run oriented. Yet, the focus of this thread has become something like "How can we improve our dismal passing attack?" What would it take, numbers-wise for Auburn's passing game to be considered satisfactory? Since 3,000 yards isn't good enough would 4,000 be sufficient? Do we need to pass for 5,000?

This coming year, I'm much more concerned with the running game. We have stud WR guys coming back. We don't need much from the TE position, that's a minor part of this offense. It would be better if the two injured WR guys were healthy but we're not likely to see them this season, so I can see depth being a concern. To me,  the overall passing game shouldn't be a source of worry and hand wringing. RB now, I could work up a good case of worry about that.

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1 hour ago, Mikey said:

Last season Stidham passed for the second most yards of any QB in program history. I read elsewhere that AU was 3rd in the SEC in passing yards. That's on a team that is and will continue to be run oriented. Yet, the focus of this thread has become something like "How can we improve our dismal passing attack?" What would it take, numbers-wise for Auburn's passing game to be considered satisfactory? Since 3,000 yards isn't good enough would 4,000 be sufficient? Do we need to pass for 5,000?

This coming year, I'm much more concerned with the running game. We have stud WR guys coming back. We don't need much from the TE position, that's a minor part of this offense. It would be better if the two injured WR guys were healthy but we're not likely to see them this season, so I can see depth being a concern. To me,  the overall passing game shouldn't be a source of worry and hand wringing. RB now, I could work up a good case of worry about that.

I don't disagree at all on the RB part.  That coupled with the unknown on the OL has me seeing another year where the defense holds on as long as they can in games before the air support lets them down.  What has to change for us is how we play away from home.  Taking out the neutral field of Mecedes Benz we had exactly 25.6 Attempts per game passing at home and away.  At home we had a 73.7% completion rate for 253.7 per game.  On the road it was 61.7% for 203 per game.  Rushing we averaged 47 attempts for 255.6 per game at home and 47.6 and 212.6 on the road.

Looking at the stats and breakdown of each game, Mikey is correct about the RBs.  If we play a team that can stop the run our normal passing plays that we have success with do not work.  The defense just tees off on Jarrett leaving him no time to look downfield.  This is why Gus must develop more routes for this offense.  The deep ball isn't working because Jarrett does not have time to wait for it to develop.  We must have options for him to get rid of the ball quickly that includes more than the WR Screen.  Time and time again in the SECCG Kirby had the MLB blitzing on what was essentially a run blitz.  Unfortunately for us it worked against the run and killed us trying to pass.  Had we just thrown to the vacated area we would have chewed up chunks of yards.  Instead we threw for 145 and rushed for 114 that night.

We can't just be an offense that is defeated if the running game is stopped against a good defense.  In those games we must use our talent at the WR and QB position to throw more intermediate routes to make the defense play honest which will open up more running opportunities.  I like being a run first team but I have seen enough games under Gus to know that we have no answer when it isn't working.

While we did throw for over 3,000 yards last year we struggled mightily at it when we needed it the most.  If we had to pass without our running game working it was abysmal.  A few changes and tweaks to a failing game plan might have saved us a win or two using our passing game.  Once again I question what good do top rated WRs do for you if you don't have a way of getting them the ball?

https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/schools/auburn/2017/gamelog/

Edited by NorthGATiger
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1 hour ago, Mikey said:

It would be better if the two injured WR guys were healthy but we're not likely to see them this season, so I can see depth being a concern. To me,  the overall passing game shouldn't be a source of worry and hand wringing. RB now, I could work up a good case of worry about that.

Agreed. AU is long overdue to have a freshman WR be a big contributor. We signed some studs last year. At least one of them needs to produce early. Without Stove and Hastings, Chip is going to have to be creative with some young guys. Like you, I am curious to see how effective our running game is early. 

Edited by Gowebb11

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3 hours ago, NorthGATiger said:

I like being a run first team but I have seen enough games under Gus to know that we have no answer when it isn't working.

Truer words were never spoken.

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On 7/7/2018 at 3:00 PM, NorthGATiger said:

...

There is a difference in playing in games and being successful and being told you need to improve on your blocking when the ball doesn't come to you and being told you can't play in games until you prove yourself as a blocker.  NCM and McClain are examples of you ain't playing till you can do this or that.  We have all heard and read about how these kids need to get their attitude right and show more effort with the little things before they can play more.  They were stud WRs.  They catch balls and make plays.  Hell they catch balls and make plays in their extremely minimal opportunities that they get.  A Ferrari does you no good in Atlanta traffic.  Why drive it when the top speed is 35. 

 

On 7/8/2018 at 7:25 AM, AUpreacherman22 said:

IMHO, NCM is gonna have a big breakout year!!!....

Of relevance?

“You always go back and watch film and see things you could have done better,” Craig-Myers said of his struggles in the middle of the year. “Sometimes I didn’t get separation and sometimes the defense schemed things up, so we couldn’t get open. I felt like when I didn’t get the ball, I could do something else to help the team.

“(Last season) I just put my head down and went to work. I feel like I could have done a little bit more but overall, I did what I could do for them. “...

“I feel like (the coaches) are finally believing in me and giving me a chance. They always believed in me, and my teammates always believed, but now it’s that trust factor. I feel like we’re finally getting to that level and it feels good. Whenever they call on me, I’m just trying to make plays and help out my team.”...

“Nate is a guy that Kodi (Burns) is asking a lot more of to take that next step, and he’s really responding,” Malzahn said. “You can just sense that; this is the third year in the offense. He just knows it and reacts. He’s helping coach some of those younger guys.” '

Fortune Teller: Auburn offense 'believing' in receiver Nate Craig-Myers http://www.theplainsman.com/article/2018/07/fortune-teller-auburn-offense-believing-in-receiver-nate-craig-myers

 

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On 7/7/2018 at 4:00 PM, NorthGATiger said:

Here is my question.  Stove, Davis, Myers, and McClain were considered to be one of the best WR classes in the modern era for Auburn.  Davis created his issue but were these kids overrated by everyone including a who's who among college coaches or are we not finding ways to use that talent?  It's hard to get excited about any WR signing with Auburn until Gus can turn that talent into something more than a blocking machine.  Our rivals recruit equal talent at the position and those players show up as freshman and sophomores who live up to the billing.  Ours come to Auburn, open the dictionary to the M's, and find the word mediocre.  Don't take a great athletic talent and remove that athletic talent by making a kid think to much or learn to be a blocker or not play.  Use them for what they are and improve their game by feeding them the things that will make them a complete player.  In my opinion Gus, with all skill players, wants to make a kid good at everything before he can see the field.  It would be easier to recruit TE's and have them lose weight lol.  In all seriousness, was tiny Mecole Hardman a good blocker for UGA his freshman year? No, but they used his talent at what he was good at.  Was Calvin Ridley a good blocker on the perimeter his freshman year. No, but they used him for what he was good at.  It is time for Gus to start using the kids he recruits for what they are good at and stop trying to make them something they are not.

There is a difference in playing in games and being successful and being told you need to improve on your blocking when the ball doesn't come to you and being told you can't play in games until you prove yourself as a blocker.  NCM and McClain are examples of you ain't playing till you can do this or that.  We have all heard and read about how these kids need to get their attitude right and show more effort with the little things before they can play more.  They were stud WRs.  They catch balls and make plays.  Hell they catch balls and make plays in their extremely minimal opportunities that they get.  A Ferrari does you no good in Atlanta traffic.  Why drive it when the top speed is 35. 

My vote is that we have not used them correctly. There's just not enough body of work to judge them on IMO. I agree about NCM and McClain. Blocking is important but i just don't agree with sitting talented guys for a long time until they learn to be a perfectionist at blocking. They're WRs! Catch the dang ball is what i'm looking for. Run good routes and get open. The holding calls on WR screens were often a drive killer too. Get them the ball and let them work the open field. We have speed everywhere on our team.  

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On 7/8/2018 at 9:26 AM, Mikey said:

Last season Stidham passed for the second most yards of any QB in program history. I read elsewhere that AU was 3rd in the SEC in passing yards. That's on a team that is and will continue to be run oriented. Yet, the focus of this thread has become something like "How can we improve our dismal passing attack?" What would it take, numbers-wise for Auburn's passing game to be considered satisfactory? Since 3,000 yards isn't good enough would 4,000 be sufficient? Do we need to pass for 5,000?

This coming year, I'm much more concerned with the running game. We have stud WR guys coming back. We don't need much from the TE position, that's a minor part of this offense. It would be better if the two injured WR guys were healthy but we're not likely to see them this season, so I can see depth being a concern. To me,  the overall passing game shouldn't be a source of worry and hand wringing. RB now, I could work up a good case of worry about that.

Because if we don't have a run game our passing game is non-existent. It's all or nothing with our passing game. We have enough talent to dictate how we want to play on offense even as a primarily run team. Key games have shown this. I'd like to be more versatile on offense so if our running game is shut down it's not an automatic loss. Stats don't always tell the story. 

Edited by WarEagle1983
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On 7/7/2018 at 3:00 PM, NorthGATiger said:

Here is my question.  Stove, Davis, Myers, and McClain were considered to be one of the best WR classes in the modern era for Auburn.  Davis created his issue but were these kids overrated by everyone including a who's who among college coaches or are we not finding ways to use that talent?  It's hard to get excited about any WR signing with Auburn until Gus can turn that talent into something more than a blocking machine.  Our rivals recruit equal talent at the position and those players show up as freshman and sophomores who live up to the billing.  Ours come to Auburn, open the dictionary to the M's, and find the word mediocre.  Don't take a great athletic talent and remove that athletic talent by making a kid think to much or learn to be a blocker or not play.  Use them for what they are and improve their game by feeding them the things that will make them a complete player.  In my opinion Gus, with all skill players, wants to make a kid good at everything before he can see the field.  It would be easier to recruit TE's and have them lose weight lol.  In all seriousness, was tiny Mecole Hardman a good blocker for UGA his freshman year? No, but they used his talent at what he was good at.  Was Calvin Ridley a good blocker on the perimeter his freshman year. No, but they used him for what he was good at.  It is time for Gus to start using the kids he recruits for what they are good at and stop trying to make them something they are not.

There is a difference in playing in games and being successful and being told you need to improve on your blocking when the ball doesn't come to you and being told you can't play in games until you prove yourself as a blocker.  NCM and McClain are examples of you ain't playing till you can do this or that.  We have all heard and read about how these kids need to get their attitude right and show more effort with the little things before they can play more.  They were stud WRs.  They catch balls and make plays.  Hell they catch balls and make plays in their extremely minimal opportunities that they get.  A Ferrari does you no good in Atlanta traffic.  Why drive it when the top speed is 35. 

IDK if its possible to consider NCM overrated. Like its literally impossible to think of him as so. Gus is just awful at using receivers there's no other alternative 

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Regarding intermediate passing. It's behind a paywall, but the tease says it all. Even Jake from State Fromm threw 1 more per game. Next above him is a huge jump. 

 

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1 hour ago, McLoofus said:

Regarding intermediate passing. It's behind a paywall, but the tease says it all. Even Jake from State Fromm threw 1 more per game. Next above him is a huge jump. 

 

Ridiculous for sure

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