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Cannella brings different element

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Auburn Football

Sal Cannella gives Auburn 'different element' at slot receiver with Will Hastings out

Updated 7:02 AM; Posted 7:00 AM

Sal Cannella could see a bigger role in Auburn's offense this fall with Will Hastings recovering from an ACL tear. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Ath

 

By Tom Green

tgreen@al.com

Two injuries at wide receiver have opened up an opportunity for a bigger offensive role for Sal Cannella.

With Will Hastings and Eli Stove both recovering from spring ACL injuries, Auburn has turned to Cannella to help fill its slot receiver position in fall camp. Cannella, who signed with Auburn out of JUCO as a tight end, provides the Tigers with a bigger look than the team has traditionally used in the slot -- something that could give the offense a new wrinkle when it opens the season Sept. 1 against Washington.

"He's a bigger guy, so he brings a different element to the game, different route-running, he's a bigger target as well, so it's kind of fun to see him as a bigger guy in that role," receiver Ryan Davis said. "He brings a different matchup problem to defenses, as well, he has some wiggle to him, he has great route-running stuff, so it's good to see him in that role and see him do something different as well."

The 6-foot-5, 232-pound Cannella was expected to be a "matchup nightmare" at tight end when he signed with Auburn prior to last season, as the Tigers spoke of expanding the tight end role within the offense. Under offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, the Tigers utilized more tight-end sets last season but did not incorporate the position much in the passing game.

Projected Auburn depth chart for Week 2 of fall camp

AL.com's projected Auburn depth chart for Week 2 of fall camp

Cannella finished his first season on the Plains with just three receptions for 31 yards in 10 games and did not see the field in either of Auburn's final two games of the season, losses to Georgia and UCF. For the year, Cannella was targeted just eight times -- receiving just 2.1 percent of Auburn's targets in the passing game -- and touted just a 37.5 percent catch rate, according to an advanced statistical profile compiled by Football Study Hall.

Cannella figures to see more opportunities in the passing game this season, according to Lindsey.

"Sal is a really versatile guy," Lindsey said. "He has played some tight end, he has played some slot, he has played what we call our big three, which is kind of H-back kind of deal.... Sal has got a chance to help us in a lot of ways. He is a long, athletic guy. He did have a very good spring and he has shown some flashes in the fall. I think he will have a big role for us."

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said receivers coach Kodi Burns will probably rotate a couple of players at the slot position, with freshman Matthew Hill -- who has earned ample praise in fall camp -- another possibility, but Cannella is the veteran most likely to help fill the role held by Hastings (26 catches, 525 yards and four touchdowns last year). So far in fall camp, according to quarterback Jarrett Stidham, Cannella has gotten "a lot of balls" and made "a lot of plays."

"Sal's been great," Stidham said. "He's really taking it a step up this fall, I think. He's worked really hard throughout this whole summer and I think he's ready for this season; I think he's going to take another step forward this season, and I think we need him to. He's obviously a big body and can catch well.

"He can go up and he can high-point the ball, so he's been doing some really good things as a bigger slot than maybe we haven't had before, so it's kind of a new thing that I think we've added a bit to our offense. He's been doing some really good things, I think."

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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If Sal could just make one big time catch in the early part of the season I believe we would see a different player out there. It seemed like the game day environment/experience got in his head a bit last season. 

Edited by AU80cruiser
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29 minutes ago, aubiefifty said:

Cannella finished his first season on the Plains with just three receptions for 31 yards in 10 games and did not see the field in either of Auburn's final two games of the season, losses to Georgia and UCF. For the year, Cannella was targeted just eight times -- receiving just 2.1 percent of Auburn's targets in the passing game -- and touted just a 37.5 percent catch rate, according to an advanced statistical profile compiled by Football Study Hall.

This is awful.  And as bad as these stats are, I didn't even realize he didn't play in the last 2 games.  I really hope he has a big year.  Kid has the size to be something special

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I, for one, can't believe anything I've read about a TE/big body guy in this offense. We had an NFL level talent and didn't use him properly. 

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If he can catch the ball when it hits him in the hands he will already be a “different element” from what we saw last year.   I was beginning to think he might need an exorcism or something to get the demons out of his head.  😊

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2 minutes ago, WDE_OxPx_2010 said:

I, for one, can't believe anything I've read about a TE/big body guy in this offense. We had an NFL level talent and didn't use him properly. 

We tried last season and he refused to catch the ball. 

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If he can shake the jitters, get settled in before they abandon him, he'll be a serious difference maker. 

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Is this the same article from last year.. First we need to use the TE. Second he needs to catch the ball. Third we need to use the TE... JS.. 🤷‍♂️

Edited by dmoney
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57 minutes ago, jAUSon said:

If he can shake the jitters, get settled in before they abandon him, he'll be a serious difference maker. 

Make good use of your opportunities SAL!  Catch the ball and prove you can be a dependable weapon.............Get it done Sal!  

I'd love nothing more than to see Gus trust the TE and utilize the position to its fullest.  

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1 hour ago, jAUSon said:

If he can shake the jitters, get settled in before they abandon him, he'll be a serious difference maker. 

 

12 minutes ago, keesler said:

Make good use of your opportunities SAL!  Catch the ball and prove you can be a dependable weapon.............Get it done Sal!  

I'd love nothing more than to see Gus trust the TE and utilize the position to its fullest.  

Absolutely. He's a huge target and he showed last season he can get open, and Stid showed he didn't mind throwing it his way. Only thing left to do is the easy part. 

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I've recently thought that the drops should be included in a QB's stats.  

Should a QB go 5 of 20 looks pretty bad. But 5 of 20 with 5 drops paints a different picture.

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Sals height, college weight & playing style remind me of Tubberville era TE Robert Johnson, who was also pretty underutilized until one day he caught everyones attention by hurtling a DB after a catch. Left us after his junior yr - wasnt NFL ready. 

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5 minutes ago, AUGoo said:

I've recently thought that the drops should be included in a QB's stats.  

Should a QB go 5 of 20 looks pretty bad. But 5 of 20 with 5 drops paints a different picture.

similar to errors in baseball ... they can have big game impacts and skew stats unfavorably for QB's.  of course, like baseball, there is no stat for fielding a ball or catching a football that should never been caught by a mere human.

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I would love to see Sal utilize his size and athleticism to be a nightmare for DCs this season, not to mention shake the rep he got last year!

 

....but I'm not holding my breath on this one.

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29 minutes ago, Barnacle said:

giphy.gif

 

That is a great one, but would have been even better if you could have put Sal's face over Ricky Bobbie's.  HAHA

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2 hours ago, AUpreacherman22 said:

I would love to see Sal utilize his size and athleticism to be a nightmare for DCs this season, not to mention shake the rep he got last year!

 

....but I'm not holding my breath on this one.

The best analysis I've seen on him is similar to Joel Bonomolo..."Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane." 

 

Hope he contributes.

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I like to tease about Sal, body double and all that stuff, but the truth is I'm really pulling for the guy. He has the size and enough speed to be a good one if he can just get the catching part solved. Maybe some sticky gloves ? Come on Sal, you can do this.

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I read somewhere the change in competition from the JUCO to the SEC was a factor. Sal anticipated being hit, and it impacted his ability to stay focused while making the catch. Now he apparently has overcome that issue.

When I hear "Slot WR", I have to assume we have evolved beyond the Malzahn playbook. The flexed tight-end position played so well by Lutz and especially Uzomah must not be in the cards any more. That position was a good fit for Sal. It might technically be in the "slot" (between the OT and the Flanker WR), but is on the line of scrimmage.

I think there is a lot of desire among OCs now to create mismatches using the inside (#2) receivers. This is because most teams play press corner coverage of the outside (#1) receivers. Getting Sal against a nickel back would create a mismatch.

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52 minutes ago, Swamp Eagle said:

The best analysis I've seen on him is similar to Joel Bonomolo..."Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane." 

 

Hope he contributes.

Literally the first thing I think about when thinking about Sal. Right or wrong, it just pops in there. All hype and literally no production so far. 

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15 minutes ago, meh130 said:

I read somewhere the change in competition from the JUCO to the SEC was a factor. Sal anticipated being hit, and it impacted his ability to stay focused while making the catch. Now he apparently has overcome that issue.

When I hear "Slot WR", I have to assume we have evolved beyond the Malzahn playbook. The flexed tight-end position played so well by Lutz and especially Uzomah must not be in the cards any more. That position was a good fit for Sal. It might technically be in the "slot" (between the OT and the Flanker WR), but is on the line of scrimmage.

I think there is a lot of desire among OCs now to create mismatches using the inside (#2) receivers. This is because most teams play press corner coverage of the outside (#1) receivers. Getting Sal against a nickel back would create a mismatch.

Lord, I hope that's not true and it's a situation where Gus just hasn't found the right personnel.....  I just always like to see a big ole TE that can lay the wood when needed, and drag across the middle to make a catch in a mis-match situation.  The NFL offenses are favorable to TE's as well.

This may also be a "trust" issue with Gus though - you want a seasoned QB/TE with good chemistry to run those plays, especially in the big time games when you need them most.

Edited by keesler

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2 hours ago, meh130 said:

I read somewhere the change in competition from the JUCO to the SEC was a factor. Sal anticipated being hit, and it impacted his ability to stay focused while making the catch. Now he apparently has overcome that issue.

 

That's pretty big news right there. I hope it's correct. Any links?

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He got shook early but you cant really say he was just a busted product with such a low volume of looks. Its like when people said NCM was an overrated product and he was our best receiver the last two games and opened the UA game before Ryan Davis took over 

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