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Slayton working on diversifying his routes

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Auburn Football

Auburn's Darius Slayton working on diversifying his routes

Updated Aug 8, 2:42 PM; Posted Aug 8, 11:10 AM

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Gallery: Auburn wide receiver Darius Slayton 2017-18

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By James Crepea

jcrepea@al.com

Darius Slayton is Auburn's best deep threat, but the split end wants to be more well rounded.

The redshirt-junior receiver led the Tigers with 22.2 yards per catch, with 643 yards on 29 receptions with five touchdowns last season. In 2018, Slayton wants to do more damage on short and intermediate routes.

"I've just been trying to work on completing my game," Slayton said. "Being able to run every route on the route tree and catch balls short, intermediate and long. ... We worked on it all summer, even in the spring time, just repping those routes a lot, a lot, a lot. I feel comfortable running them and hopefully I will get an opportunity to make some of those plays as the season goes along."

A consistent trait of Auburn's passing game under Gus Malzahn, the Tigers use their running game to open up opposing defenses for deep balls and try to get the ball on the edges quickly. It's led to some successes, but also some predictability, which is why Slayton and the coaches want to diversify his routes.

"I think (offensive coordinator) Chip (Lindsey) during the evaluation of last season and tendencies and everything that goes with it he does, he's aware of all that," Malzahn said. "As a coach you try to do the best you can to use your tendencies against other people, and obviously the first game you've got a huge volume of games and tendencies and everything, and you've got to be aware of those and use them against them."

Will Darius Slayton add to route repertoire as Auburn's top split end

Split end is always Auburn's primary deep threat in Gus Malzahn's offense and Slayton has that role down.

Malzahn has always used X or split end receiver as the primary deep threat, whether it was Sammie Coates, Ricardo Louis, Tony Stevens or now Slayton, who might have the most balanced skill set of them all.

Slayton has more dependable hands than Coates and Louis and is at least as fast if not even more so, as his yards per catch illustrates his ability to blow the top off secondaries.

"I think he's been one of our brighter spots running different types of routes," Lindsey said. "I know you guys see him catch the big ones in the game, but I think it's important to understand the defenses too. We play all of these single-high teams that press the boundary receiver and they're matching all the routes. Intermediate routes are not always the right answer. I think that's part of understanding what defenses do. Everybody now is doing that. Several years ago a lot of people were playing two-high defense or quarters coverage or whatever. You just don't see a lot of that anymore. Washington, they will be multiple and they'll mix it up, but I think the style of play has changed over the years. I think that's part of it.

"Obviously we're not going to throw the ball 50 times a game, hopefully. That's not what we're built to do, therefore the throws we make we want to make sure they are high percentage and kind of fit the coverage."

With Eli Stove and Will Hastings still recovering from torn ACLs, Auburn has to find ways to replace what they each brought to the field. Both are quick and nimble, with Stove more adept at end-arounds and elusive in space and Hastings as a deep threat in the middle of the field.

The area of the field Jarrett Stidham is working to improve on in 2018

Auburn's quarterback is focusing on Intermediate routes, specially outside the hashes

Slayton, Nate Craig-Myers and Ryan Davis each have different skills that can help offset the short-term losses of Stove and Hastings, but the more they can each diversify what they can do the more difficult they'll each be to defend.

"I can tell (Slayton)'s improved since the spring, so that is a really good thing," Malzahn said. "I know (wide receiver coach) Kodi (Burns)'s really been working hard on his intermediate routes ... but we're going to be asking a whole lot of him and we'll be asking a whole lot of Nate and then Ryan; those are the three guys that really have the experience with Will and Eli's situation up in the air. So we're going to be relying on some of those young guys for depth, but those three guys, we're really challenging them, all three, to really take that next step. We're off to a good start so far."

James Crepea is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @JamesCrepea.

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