March 25, 2014
Junior Sammie Coates is the leader of the pack for Auburn’s wide receivers (Lauren Barnard photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – Among Auburn’s wide receivers, junior Sammie Coates is the leader of the pack. It’s a position his coaches and teammates acknowledge he earned by making big plays in big games during Auburn’s run to the Southeastern Conference championship last season.
“Sammie knows he’s the go-to guy right now,” senior Quan Bray said Tuesday after Auburn’s fourth practice of the spring. “I think everybody in the world knows that. He’s going to open it up for everybody else, and we are going to open it up for him.”
But Coates is far from alone. Every wide receiver that played on last season’s Southeastern Conference championship team returns, though Trovon Reed has moved to cornerback. D’haquille Williams is already showing why he was the nation’s No. 1 junior college prospect. Speedy freshman Stanton Truitt is turning heads.
“We’ve got a lot of playmakers on offense,” Coates said. “We have so much talent in one room. It’s going to be crazy when everything comes together.”
Auburn’s veteran wide receivers had heard the talk about Williams, who arrived in January from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. They wanted to see what he could do on the field, and they have.
“He’s a competitor, definitely,” Bray said. “He hates to lose. I was his host on his recruiting visit. Just talking to him and knowing what type of guy he is, to see the stuff he has built up and let it out on the field, I see he is a baller.
“If you talk on the field, you have to back it up. You can definitely see he is doing both of those.”
Williams made it clear from the start, Coates says, that he had come to make an impact.
“He’s just one of those guys that is made for football,” Coates said. “He comes out there and gives his all every time he’s on the field.”
Wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig told his players they could be the nation’s best. And he likes what he’s seen in the early days of spring. It’s a far different feeling than he had a year ago.
“As the season went along, I thought we got better every week,” Craig said. “I think the kids matured throughout the season. They have a different approach now. It was fun watching these kids grow throughout the season. They are totally different from when I got here.
“We are starting to develop some leaders in that group. I trust these guys to lead. They are being accountable on and off the field, and that’s important. I’m excited about them. I expect these guys to compete, have fun and have an impact on this conference next season.”
Coates first three Auburn seasons were often difficult. He was injured during his first summer on campus and redshirted. He had issues with dropped passes in 2012 and early in 2013, but he had no drops in the last seven games. He finished with 42 catches for 902 yards, a gaudy 21.5 yards per catch.
But Coates says there is more he can do. Much more.
“I’m just working on being an all-around wide receiver, just making plays not only deep down the field but short plays, too,” Coates said. “I want to be one of those guys you can go to any time.”
Making that jump is part technique and part mindset. Coates says he has worked hard on both.
“I learned in order to be a great wide receiver you have to have better focus,” Coates said. “You have to come out there every time on the field believing nobody can stop you. That’s the attitude you have to take as a wide receiver.”
There is no jealousy among the wide receivers, Bray says. Newcomers are welcomed. The only mission is to get Auburn back to finish the job left unfinished when Florida State scored with 13 seconds left to win the national championship on Jan. 6.
“There is always competition,” Bray said. “We bring them in as a brotherhood, and we are going to bring them along and make sure they know what to do so they can get on the field. Both those guys are definitely going to help us get back to where we want to go.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: