April 20, 2014
Sammie Coates brings in a pass for a touchdown at Auburn's A-Day Game (Zach Bland photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Big-play receiver Sammie Coates came away from Auburn's A-Day Game dreaming of the possibilities of an electric passing game after he watched footballs fly around Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Tigers threw more than they ran and showcased Nick Marshall's passing and their bevy of receivers in front of more than 70,000 fans Saturday.
"We want to show the world that we're the best group of wide receivers in the nation," Coates said. "We have a great quarterback. The offensive line is doing a great job. I'm ready for the fall. I'm ready for our team to show the world what we can do."
Why? Because Coates says Auburn is still smarting from losing the BCS title game last season. He said that will be the motivation he'll take into summer workouts because "you didn't complete what you wanted to do last year. That makes you even hungrier, if you left something on the field, or you didn't do something right at practice.
"It's the mindset you take to the field. Coach Malzahn teaches that. You can't have one good day and one bad day. You have to come out hungry every day, and just be ready to play hard at practice, and that's what we do. Every day we're going to come out there hungry."
Auburn surprised the college football world last season with a turnaround season that produced a 12-2 record and a spot in the BCS title game. The Tigers did it by leading the nation in rushing. Auburn spent this spring working on the passing game.
Marshall threw four touchdown passes, new receiver Duke Williams had a big game and the first-team Blue offense happily won A-Day 58-3.
Coates, Auburn's leading receiver last year, was certainly in the mix. He had two receptions for 29 yards that included a fine touchdown catch in the end zone. Four other receivers had more catches, including Williams' five for 88 yards and a TD. Melvin Ray, last seen catching a 50-yard TD pass in the BCS title game, had six catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Quan Bray had three catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Tony Stevens had three catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns. Sure-to-contribute Ricardo Louis, Marcus Davis, Stanton Truitt and Dominic Walker combined for five more catches.
Coates led the Tigers last season with 42 catches for 902 yards and seven touchdowns. That included his eye-popping 21.5 yards per-catch average.
"We have some veteran guys that understand our offense," said coach Gus Malzahn. "I feel like that group is improving and, of course, you add Duke to it along with the younger guys. We have some depth there."
The move to more passing is a natural progression for Marshall, who wasn't even in school last spring, but quickly picked up Malzahn's offense in preseason work to win the starting job.
Now, Coates says, "we know the system better, and once you know something better, it's going to be scary. Our team is playing together.
"We've bought in the Malzahn 'New Day.' We're just going to add on to it."
A-Day Game highlights (including Sammie Coates' TD catch)...
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: