April 7, 2014
Wide receiver Sammie Coates scores the game-tying touchdown against Alabama (USA Today photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – Dameyune Craig, Auburn’s wide receivers coach, knew D’haquille Williams had rare talent, the kind of talent that NFL teams seek. But was Williams willing to work hard enough, to be a leader?
Nine days into spring practice, Craig has his answer from Williams, a transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College,
“He’s intelligent,” Craig said. “He’s catching on to the offense and working as hard as he can work. He’s a fighter. He’s a competitor. I’ve been very pleased, more than with his talent, with his work ethic. That’s been the surprising thing to me. He is a very hard worker. He’s buying into everything we do. We all know he’s talented, but he’s doing the little things.”
Craig was a fierce competitor as an all-time great Auburn quarterback, finishing his career in 1997. He sees similar traits in Williams.
“He reminds me of myself,” Craig said. “He’s very competitive and loves to win. I was the same way. We have to make sure we channel it in the right direction.”
Auburn returns seven receivers who caught passes in last season’s run to the BCS Championship Game. Junior Sammie Coates led the team with 42 receptions for 902 yards and seven touchdowns. Memorably, Coates caught a game-tying touchdown pass from Nick Marshall late in Auburn’s 34-28 victory over Alabama.
Coates, Craig says, has grown dramatically on and off the field over the past year.
“It is night and day,” Craig said. “He’s not the same kid as when I arrived on campus. His attitude is better. His work ethic is better. His leadership skills are better. Sammie does a lot of things off the field that go unnoticed. He likes to go to elementary schools and middle schools and visit kids. He loves to go to the hospital and visit cancer patients.
“I’ve watched him grow into that person he’s become. I hope he continues to be that person and not the cool Sammie. I don’t like the cool Sammie too much.”
Craig isn’t ready to say Coates or anyone else will be the go-to receiver in 2014. And he says Coates isn’t looking for such recognition.
“He’s a humble kid,” Craig said. “I think he understands the big picture. This is an offense that is very unique. He is a valuable asset. If he gets any kind of double coverage, it is going to put the defense in a tremendous bind, because we have a bunch of playmakers around him.”
Craig says he’s been impressed with the receivers as a whole, with the returnees and the newcomers. But he says much remains to be done.
“I think they are working hard,” Craig said. “I think we have some talent in that group, and they are learning how to push each other. They have been really helping each other out. They are learning how to communicate with each other.
“I can’t say who is the guy. They are all doing outstanding jobs.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: