By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says the time is now for Auburn's veteran receivers.
"We are," he said, "going to need those older guys."
Enter senior receivers Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens; and Ryan Davis, Jason Smith, Darius Slayton and Stanton Truitt, the other receivers who have been around, who are being asked to lead the way, and are ahead of four heralded freshmen on the depth chart. Auburn could play all of them in the season-opener against Clemson at 8 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium
Davis is the leading returning receiver with 30 catches for 181 yards. Lashlee says he's picked up where he left off.
"He's been the most consistent guy through fall camp."
Challenging Davis, Stevens, Davis, Smith, Slayton and Truitt are true freshmen Kyle Davis, Nate Craig-Myers, Eli Stove and Marquis McClain. Receivers coach Kodi Burns said earlier in preseason camp the freshmen have impressed.
"I think they're showing me that they care and that they're smart," Burns said.
But they've never played in a college game, so Lashlee said, "You've got to have guys like Marcus Davis, Tony Stevens, step up, especially in the early games."
Lashlee said Stevens is looking to take the next step in his career.
"The big thing for Tony in the past has been his consistency," Lashlee said. "He'll make some `wow' plays, then won't make some plays that seem fairly simple. He's practiced well and done some good things, but really, until you can go do it consistently in a game, the jury is still out."
Stevens says he's ready.
"I've got more urgency," he said. "This is my senior year. My last year I just want to go out with a W. I want to win it all. That's just me. I like to win. I don't like to lose so I'm going out there with more urgency. I'm trying to get my teammates with me, everybody has my back and I've got their back."
Lashlee said Ryan Davis "was a bright spot in the spring, and has continued to do some good things in the fall. When you start looking at it from a young receiving corps, you've got Marcus and Tony are your seniors, and after that, really Jason Smith and Ryan Davis are the next two guys, but have hardly any game experience. Everybody else is going to be a true freshman or redshirt freshman or somebody like Stanton Truitt who hasn't played a lot because of injuries. He's a guy that needs to be in that group that can step up early and make some plays for us.
"But when you come into a game like this," Lashlee added, he'll turn to Davis and Stevens.
"We got to be able to lean on the older guys with experience early, until younger guys can step up and elevate their level or older guys step into that role that you want them to step into. We just have to see how it plays out."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine