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bigger and longer at WR

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Auburn gets 'bigger and longer' at WR with 2020 class

Updated Dec 19, 2019;Posted Dec 19, 2019

5-7 minutes

Auburn Football

Dennis Victory | preps@al.com

Montevallo's JJ Evans, an Auburn commit, warms up during the Cam Newton 7-on-7 tournament at BlackWatch Sports in Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday, June 29, 2019. (Dennis Victory | preps@al.com)

Gus Malzahn wanted to add length to Auburn’s offense, specifically, to its receiving corps.

Auburn’s seventh-year head coach made that a focus of the Tigers’ 2020 signing class, with the team adding a talented crop of receivers during the early signing period this week, including a pair of 6-foot-4 targets, a 6-foot-2 prospect and a versatile 6-foot playmaker who could get some reps at quarterback.

In all, Auburn signed four receivers as part of its seventh-ranked 2020 class, which inked 22 players on Wednesday during the early signing period. The Tigers added four-star prospects Kobe Hudson, JJ Evans and Ze’Vian Capers, as well as three-star receiver Elijah Canion to a receiving corps that’s set to return each of its top three receivers and a wealth of other options on the depth chart in 2020.

“It was really big,” Malzahn said of the class of receivers. “You know, we signed four and really felt like we needed to. Like I said, we wanted to get a little longer, and we did that…. All four of those guys are playmakers. They’re very good with the ball in their hands. And like I said, we’re excited. And I know Bo Nix is excited that we got all four of them.”

Of the Tigers’ four receiver signees, three are top-150 prospects, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Hudson, out of Troup County in LaGrange, Ga., is rated as the No. 93 overall player in the 2020 class, while Capers is No. 129 and Evans comes in at No. 149. It’s the first time since 2016 — when Auburn signed Nate Craig-Myers, Kyle Davis and Eli Stove — that the Tigers have landed three receiver ranked inside the top-150 players in a class, and when you add in Canion to the equation, it should provide Auburn with its deepest receiving class of Malzahn’s tenure.

Hudson is the highest-rated of the group but also the smallest, at just 6-foot and 185 pounds. However, the high four-star prospect is one Malzahn is particularly excited about because of his versatile skillset. While Hudson is a natural receiver, Auburn views him as somewhat of a do-it-all athlete, as he played quarterback for Troup County and passed for 5,015 yards and 50 touchdowns over his junior and senior seasons while rushing for 2,386 yards and 25 scores. That was after totaling 64 receptions for 1,424 yards and 13 touchdowns between his freshman and sophomore seasons.

With Auburn still thin on quarterback depth — with only Cord Sandberg and 2020 signee Chayil Garnett behind starter Bo Nix — Hudson could also see reps at the position as an emergency or Wildcat/specialized package option.

“Really, I put ‘/athlete’ (by his name) because I’ve been recruiting this guy since eighth grade,” Malzahn said. “Really think he’s got a chance to be special…. Very excited about Kobe. Really feel like he’s going to be an outstanding player for us.”

Capers had 45 catches for 922 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at Denmark High in Alpharetta, Ga., while Evans had 38 catches for 617 yards and seven scores during an injury-plagued senior season — which came after catching 74 passes for 1,706 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior at Montevallo. Malzahn described Evans as being a strong receiver who is great after the catch.

“(Capers) is a guy that I think is an impact player,” Malzahn said. “Really smooth. Runs very good routes. Snatches the ball with his hands. Keeps his feet on the ground. Really think this guy could be an impact player. We’re very excited to have him. And if you look at our receivers, we really wanted to get taller and bigger and longer. That’s what we did in this class with that.”

That includes the 6-foot-4 Canion, the lone three-star of the group, who comes from the same high school program — Chaminade-Madonna in Hollywood, Fla. — that produced Auburn running back Shaun Shivers. Canion’s team didn’t throw the ball as much, but when he was targeted, he demonstrated big-play potential while averaging 21 yards per catch. Canion, Malzahn said, reminds him of Seth Williams.

That trio of newcomers will bring added length to an Auburn receiving corps that returns just two players taller than 6-1. At 6-4, Canion and Capers will be the Tigers’ tallest receivers in 2020, along with rising-senior Zach Farrar. Williams, at 6-3, will be right behind them, while Evans checks in at 6-2.

The rest of Auburn’s receiving corps ranges between 5-9 (redshirting freshman Ja’Varrius Johnson) and 6-1 (Matthew Hill and Jashawn Sheffield), with the rest of the returning receivers standing 6 feet tall: Stove, Anthony Schwartz and Shedrick Jackson.

While length was a focus for the 2020 class, the entire receiving corps has an underlying theme, according to newly hired offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who had to coach against many of the team’s current receivers each of the last two seasons. That common thread, he said, is speed.

"You know, you continue to sign speed,” Morris said. “I’ve said it forever: You either have speed, or you’re chasing it. And you don’t want to be chasing speed.”

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

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We're a run heavy team, or at least a team that wants to be run heavy. I have no idea how Gus rakes in 4 and 5 star receivers when  we only target one guy a year and only throw like 25 times a game. We need o-line men and legit #1 backs, not receivers.

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1 hour ago, hutchids said:

We're a run heavy team, or at least a team that wants to be run heavy. I have no idea how Gus rakes in 4 and 5 star receivers when  we only target one guy a year and only throw like 25 times a game. We need o-line men and legit #1 backs, not receivers.

I dont get it either. On the plus side, we got one legit #1 with Tank Bigsby coming in. Adding him to Boobie and DJ William's with a little Shivers mixed in is legit. We just need the run blocking studs to part the Red Sea for these guys. I am not sure if we have that but we will find out pretty quick in 2020. 

Edited by twilli13

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If Morris does nothing else here, hopefully he convinces Gus WR’s are more effective when they are not stuck doing one specific route/task.

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2 hours ago, CR said:

If Morris does nothing else here, hopefully he convinces Gus WR’s are more effective when they are not stuck doing one specific route/task.

THIS! THIS! THIS!  Gus has got to stop A) Showing the world what the play is due to who he has in what formation, and B ) getting 25% usage out of our talent due to only running specific plays with specific players.  A great example is Shivers' run for a TD that blew the helmet off the bama player.  That is an Anthony Schwartz play.  Anthony got injured and was out and we now know Stove was playing injured.  Shivers got the call.  Anthony is not running over that guy on that play.  I don't say that to put down Anthony or put Shaun on a pedestal.  They are two different tools that provide two different outcomes.  Joiner spent most of the year as the RB that runs a wheel route when he was in the game.  Thats it.  No motion out of the backfield to get a man out of the box pre snap.  No motion out of the backfield to see how the defense is set up.  No motion out of the backfield to maximize your matchup like UF did with Pitts.  I am amazed at how many of you think Joiner could not have done more due to him being soft, or a bad practice player.

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On 12/21/2019 at 9:14 AM, hutchids said:

We're a run heavy team, or at least a team that wants to be run heavy. I have no idea how Gus rakes in 4 and 5 star receivers when  we only target one guy a year and only throw like 25 times a game. We need o-line men and legit #1 backs, not receivers.

The last 5 games we averaged 38 attempts a game so I think Gus is reversing that trend. DJ, MAR, and Tank were all highly recruited backs so I think that trend is in a positive direction as well.  I think everyone agrees that we need to upgrade the o line though. 

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If just one of those 2 guys pan out I'll be happy to have a tall WR who can high point and fight for the ball over smaller CBs.

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13 hours ago, dyehardfanAU said:

If just one of those 2 guys pan out I'll be happy to have a tall WR who can high point and fight for the ball over smaller CBs.

And like Cannella he will likely still get 1 or 2 targets a game.

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On 12/22/2019 at 11:42 AM, dyehardfanAU said:

If just one of those 2 guys pan out I'll be happy to have a tall WR who can high point and fight for the ball over smaller CBs.

I agree but what we need more than anything are WRs with speed and not speed guys playing WR.  We are, and have been, in huge need of WRs that run great routes with speed.  I can't tell you the last player at WR for Auburn that had game changing speed and ran excellent routes.  We have got to start recruiting kids that are more than just good athletes that can out jump DBs.  

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8 minutes ago, NorthGATiger said:

I agree but what we need more than anything are WRs with speed and not speed guys playing WR.  We are, and have been, in huge need of WRs that run great routes with speed.  I can't tell you the last player at WR for Auburn that had game changing speed and ran excellent routes.  We have got to start recruiting kids that are more than just good athletes that can out jump DBs.  

Maybe if we start showing we'll utilize them we'll get some.

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