Sept. 24, 2013
Auburn's Sammie Coates breaks away from LSU (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – Jaylon Denson put on a brave face Monday.
"I'm down.. But best believe I'm not out! The SEC has not seen the last of me! I will bounce back," the Auburn receiver tweeted after a season-ending knee injury against LSU on Saturday that has opened the door for others to take his place.
Denson flew to Pensacola this morning, according to his tweets, for surgery by Dr. James Andrews.
"#RoadToRecovery," he tweeted.
Denson's season is likely over after three catches for 45 yards. But Auburn, in the midst of an off week, will press on at wide receiver and slot receiver with a mix of veterans and quick learners, from the experienced Quan Bray and Trovon Reed, to deep threat Sammie Coates to Ricardo Louis and freshmen Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens to the versatile C.J. Uzomah.
Is there a go-to receiver? Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says he isn't sure. He says he'll run a receiving corps by committee, if necessary.
Finding reliable receivers is a priority for Lashlee and head coach Gus Malzahn, at least over the offense run by Scot Loeffler last year. Auburn's top four receivers after four games this season are all wideouts or slot receivers. Last year's top four receivers were two wideouts/slot receivers, a tight end and a running back.
Coates leads the receiving corps with 11 catches for 306 yards (a nifty 27.8 yards per catch). That's five more catches than he had all last season. Louis also has 11 catches for 66 yards (he had three catches last year). Davis, a high school quarterback a year ago, has 10 catches for 87 yards. Uzomah, a tight end who can do other things, has three catches for 48 yards, including the game-winner against Mississippi State.
"Sammie has been the one making plays right now. I think he’s got confidence, but we’ve got other guys," Lashlee said. "We know Ricardo can run. I think Tony Stevens is a guy that is long and can run. C.J. has made a lot of intermediate catches."
Lashlee also predicted "Melvin Ray, he's going to step up."
"I’ve said it before 'we've got kind of a by-committee approach at receiver and at running back.' I don’t know if we have a true go-to guy at receiver or necessarily a go-to back. It’s about who’s hot. I think that will emerge and change over time. Right now it’s a team approach. We could care less who makes the catches as long as someone is making the plays. We do know what guys are better at other things. Obviously Sammie right now is making a lot of plays."
Auburn liked Davis, the freshman, from the beginning, and he has rewarded that faith with 10 catches. Another rookie who could follow is Stevens, who was slowed at the beginning of fall camp with an injury, but is healthy enough now to make an impact.
"We've been bringing him along, and he had more of an involvement in the game plan," Lashlee said. "He had a couple of catches, and that's going to increase. Now, we've got two weeks to really get him more reps, and we really think he's going to be in the rotation. He and Marcus Davis are two guys that we feel like can help us now, and I expect bigger things from Tony moving forward."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine