Duke Williams makes the catch for Auburn in the opener
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Duke Williams caught on, just look at his stats.
He caught nine passes for 154 yards and a touchdown. He did it in his Auburn debut. He helped the Tigers beat Arkansas 45-21 in the season-opener.
He had the 12th best receiving day in Auburn history.
Arkansas couldn't keep up, but that's OK. Williams barely could in the beginning when Gus Malzahn's offense first hit the field.
"Coach Malzahn was 'run it, run it, run it,'" Williams remembered. "I was looking left and right, like, 'I got to get to my position,' and by the time I got there, they had already snapped the ball. In JUCO, we ran the no-huddle, but not like Coach Malzahn runs it."
Not that fast, but it seemed to take Williams all of about two seconds to adjust. He caught seven passes for 138 yards in the first half, all from Jeremy Johnson.
Williams arrived at Auburn as the No. 1 junior college player in the country. Auburn fans could see why.
"I think everybody saw today that he has playmaking ability," said Malzahn.
Williams was the first to benefit from Malzahn's stated desire to throw more this year. But, in the end, it was just another day at the football office for Williams.
"The only that really changed was the conference and the players," he said. "I just work hard. I didn't change my game. I just got better. I learned how to run my routes better. I got faster and stronger. In JUCO, I didn't really I didn't really add much weight, but now I'm 233 with 4.3 speed, and that just makes it hard for them to attack me."
Malzahn said it was Williams who was on the attack, especially catching passes over the middle.
"We had a plan that if they played us a certain we’d attack them with him in the middle of the field, so that was kind of what happened and he did a good job executing," Malzahn said.
The plan opened up Auburn's run-oriented offense. The Tigers finished with 595 yards, 302 of them via the run, 293 via the pass.
"Last year they ran the ball a lot. This year we're not one-dimensional," Williams said. "Either they're going to either stop the run or they're going to stop the pass. Whichever one they do, it's going to make it harder for them."
Williams easily led the way with nine catches. He was followed by Melvin Ray, with two; then C.J. Uzomah, Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant and fellow wide receivers Sammie Coates and Ricardo Louis with one catch each.
Williams said the presence of Coates and Louis made his day easier.
"Ricardo and Sammie, you can't double stick on everybody. Whenever you double stick somebody, that's going to make the play," Williams said. "They're my brothers, on and off the field. I look up to them. I know I'm older than them, but they guide through me this."
Williams said he's happy enough to catch passes from Johnson or Nick Marshall.
"I catch with both of them in practice just in case something happens, to have a chemistry with both of them," Williams said. "They're equal to me. They're both my quarterbacks."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine