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Will Hastings' return bolsters slot receivers

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Will Hastings' return from ACL tear bolsters Auburn's slot receivers

By Tom Green | tgreen@al.com | Posted May 12, 2019 at 07:30 AM

6-7 minutes

With spring practice over AL.com is reviewing Auburn's depth chart position by position. The sixth of a 25-part series looks at Auburn's slot receivers.  

Auburn again has its share of options in the slot, especially with the interchangeability of the receivers at the various positions in the corps. The slot position this spring saw one redshirt freshman break through, while the Tigers also welcomed the news of the full return of another piece who sat out the majority of the 2018 season in Will Hastings.

Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

Post-spring depth chart

Matthew Hill: 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, redshirt freshman

Will Hastings: 5-foot-10, 174 pounds, redshirt senior OR

Anthony Schwartz: 6-foot, 179 pounds, sophomore* OR

Eli Stove: 6-foot, 188 pounds, redshirt junior

*Schwartz did not participate in spring practices while focusing on running track

Vasha Hunt/AP Photo

Gus Malzahn's take

"(Matthew) Hill is a guy that we had high expectations for when we recruited him.... He has had a very solid spring. He’s a guy that has a chance to make big plays."

Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

Starter

This particular position remains wide open, and any of the four receivers listed on this projected depth chart could conceivably get the starting job. After an impressive spring, however, and with Eli Stove/Anthony Schwartz vying for the starting spot at flanker, redshirt freshman Matthew Hill gets the nod here.

Hill was one of the most talked-about players this spring, and the former top-100 recruit showed why on A-Day, when he led all receivers in receptions and yards and tied with Seth Williams for the lead in touchdowns. Hill has been compared to Ryan Davis due to his ability to maneuver and make plays after the catch, though he's a bigger receiver who has the potential to be a more versatile weapon within Auburn's offense.

Josh Bean/jbean@al.com

What we wrote about Matthew Hill this spring

Julie Bennett/AL.com

Backup

After two ACL surgeries since last spring, Will Hastings is finally back, fully cleared and ready to step back into a role in Auburn's receiving corps. The redshirt senior, who tore his ACL last spring before suffering a setback in the fall following a quick return to the field, was limited throughout this spring and missed A-Day -- though Gus Malzahn announced after the spring game that Hastings was officially cleared for full contact that day.

Now that he's back and healthy, Hastings will look to not only bring a veteran presence to the receiving corps but try to step back into the role he had in 2017, when he was an integral part of the passing attack while hauling in 26 catches for 525 yards and four touchdowns.

Julie Bennett/AL.com

What we wrote about Will Hastings this spring

Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

Next wave

The "next wave" of receivers at the slot position for Auburn this fall includes two experienced playmakers, starting with redshirt junior Eli Stove.

Stove, who is also vying for the starting job at flanker, returned this spring after redshirting last season (appearing in four games) due to an ACL tear he sustained last spring. Stove shook off the rust and looked a lot like his old self this spring while scoring a touchdown on A-Day. 

While Stove wasn't prepared to declare himself 100 percent back, Auburn's ability to reincorporate him back into the receiving corps will be another boost this fall.

Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

The other experienced playmaker among the "next wave" at slot is sophomore Anthony Schwartz, who like Stove is in the mix for the starting job at flanker. Again, all these spots are interchangeable, and many of these receivers will see time at multiple positions this fall.

Schwartz, who didn't go through spring practices while focusing solely on running track, is a world-class sprinter who is coming off a strong freshman campaign -- one he will look to build on this fall.

Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

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This could be one of our best receiving corps in a good while. The same said for RB. We have a lot of ingredients to be a force on offense if the line can hold it together and continue improving. The key is to keep our OL healthy even more so now that Troxell is out.

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