By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — The stat sheet gives the nod to the veterans. Marcus Davis has more catches. Tony Stevens has more touchdown receptions. Last year's backup kicker-turned-receiver has caught five balls. Indeed, the first five receivers were on the team last season.
But the one-handed catch by Kyle Davis in last week's 51-14 win over Arkansas State suggests Auburn's talented freshman receiving class will make an impact before the season is done.
"We're still learning about them, and they're still learning about the offense. You'll see those guys with bigger roles the longer as the season goes," said coach Gus Malzahn during Wednesday's SEC teleconference.
Two freshmen, Davis and Nate Craig-Myers, have combined for three catches in the first two games. Eli Stove has played an is waiting his turn as Auburn practices for Saturday's game against Texas A&M. The new-look Tigers have already played 20 true or redshirt freshmen.
Davis' catch had Jordan-Hare Stadium buzzing last weekend.
"He's extremely talented. He just needs experience," Malzahn said. " It was good that he and Nate Craig, and Eli Stove got significant reps last week, and just getting comfortable with everything."
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 11, 2016
The Tigers will look for more positive chatter when they face the Aggies at 6 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare in the SEC opener for both teams.
Auburn showed last week it can spread the passing game around. Ten players combined for 17 catches.
"I thought they executed their passing game last week as well I've seen them," said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin during the teleconference.
Malzahn emphasized Auburn is, first and foremost, a run/play-action offense. Even Sumlin said "we have to be prepared for the power running game."
But Sean White showed he could pass as well last week, hitting 17 of 23 passes for career high in yards, with 244; and touchdown passes, with three. Throw in 462 yards rushing and Auburn finished with 706 total yards, the second highest total in school history.
White, the receivers and running back Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway won most of the headlines for that. Malzahn said don't forget about offensive line, the guys who made it possible.
"They improved quite a bit from Game One," Malzahn said. "We expected them to do that being a new group working together. I thought they executed at a pretty high level."
• Malzahn said he was happy Marshall Taylor played in his first Auburn game last week. The Miami of Ohio transfer is a defensive back who missed most of preseason practice.
"It was good he got out there and got some game experience. That will do nothing but help him moving forward. He's still trying to get into playing shape and get familiar with what we're doing defensively. But I think he's definitely a guy who can help us the rest of the season."
• Malzahn said he expects linebacker T.J. Neal, who played in the first game but didn't in the second, will play against Texas A&M.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine