April 10, 2014
Sammie Coates heads to the end zone for Auburn in 2013 (Anthony Hall photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Rhett Lashlee needs lots of receivers to make his high-speed offense to work.
"We had six receivers last spring," he said.
Now, he's got more. The addition of junior college transfer Duke Williams and Stanton Truitt, the availability of redshirt freshman Dominic Walker and the return of seven receivers who caught passes last year give the Auburn offensive coordinator more to work with.
Throw in improving quarterback Nick Marshall, and Lashlee says Auburn has something going with a passing game with interchangeable receivers.
"We've got depth now, we've got size and we've got speed. That’s all three pretty good things to have. I would hope that could become a strength for us," Lashlee said.
"They've bought into what we're asking them to do and it starts with the older guys. They take pride in blocking. They take pride now in making plays on the ball. I think they have attacked the ball better, so when that ball is not thrown perfect, go get a deep ball.
"Everybody is taking accountability for what they're doing. I've been proud of the way, overall, the receivers have stepped up and made some plays."
Auburn returns this from last fall: Sammie Coates, who caught 42 passes for 902 yards and seven TDs; Ricardo Louis, 28 catches for 325 yards and two touchdowns; Marcus Davis, 23 catches for 217 yards and a TD; Quan Bray, 23 catches for 195 for three TDs; Melvin Ray, five catches for 108 yards and one TD; Tony Stevens, five catches for 68 yards and one TD; and Jaylon Denson, three catches for 45 yards.
The Tigers also return Marshall, who made his living running the zone-read offense to success, but can add more passing after going through this, his first spring at Auburn.
"The No. 1 thing, he's just more comfortable," Lashlee said. "He knows where everybody's at on every play.
"Not only do I think he does a better job of commanding the team and carrying himself, but I think because he's confident."
Lashlee said Thursday it's been a spring of trying players in new positions, whether it's moving offensive lineman around for experience, just in case of an emergency situations; or looking at receivers Williams, Ricardo Louis and Marcus Davis at different slots.
"I've been really impressed with some of those guys and how they've responded," Lashlee said. "Because you've walked in after seven practices and say, 'Hey Marcus, you're going to play this spot today.' A lot of guys can't handle that. But a guy like Marcus, he's only been here one year, but he already knows and understands the whole concept of what we're doing offensively. He can bump out there and really not miss much of a beat."
Williams arrived with a lot of hype.
"Duke's done a really good job with buying into the way we're going to practice," Lashlee said. "A lot of times you get new guys, especially from junior college, they come in and they're not used to practicing like we practice.
"It's really hard on our wide receivers. The way we go, the tempo, we never stop. It gets them in great shape for the game but he bought in from Day 1."
Lashlee said Williams, Stevens, Coates and Louis can go deep.
"That's four pretty big guys that all can go make plays on the ball, whether it's on deep balls, in the middle of the field or in the red zone," Lashlee said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine