Oct. 25, 2013
Dameyune Craig has brought confidence to Auburn's receivers (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn is a running team. The Tigers' stats and the philosophy prove it. But offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says the passing game will keep improving as quarterback Nick Marshall continues to grow, and as the receivers continue to develop under assistant coach Dameyune Craig.
The Tigers will have a chance to work more on that against Florida Atlantic at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn leads the SEC in rushing. It is 11th in passing. But the Tigers have produced big passing plays, including four completions of more than 50 yards and seven more that covered more than 30. Passing plays in the closing moments figured prominently in Auburn's two last-minute wins.
Lashlee says Craig is one of the reasons why the receivers are finding their way.
"He's got a lot of energy. He's intense," Lashlee said. "When you have somebody who played quarterback, not only at Auburn but in the NFL and other places at such a high level, really helps us in what we do because our receivers have to understand the whole offense. They have to understand the quarterback's reads and everything that goes into it, and he can give them that view.
"They love him. From the first day he got here, he changed the confidence in that room immediately. You could see it guys like Sammie Coates, and Ricardo is coming on…none of them are where we want them yet, but they're getting better each week and Dameyune deserves all the credit for that."
Gus Malzahn's usually has a go-to receiver with big stats, but this year it has been receiver-by-committee. Sammie Coates leads Auburn with 18 catches. Ricardo Louis has 16, and Quan Bray and Marcus Davis have 15 each.
Davis' clutch catch coming as the game wound down at Texas A&M last Saturday set up Auburn's winning touchdown.
"The young freshman comes up big in big moments. He's done it a couple of times this year," Lashlee said on Auburn's Tiger Talk radio show Thursday night. "I wasn't really looking forward to a fourth-and-9 call, so I'm glad he caught it."
Marshall is 82-of-143 passing for 1,138 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. Jeremy Johnson has played two games, and he's 17-of-23 for 201 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Auburn has passed for more than 200 yards four times, all coming in the last five games.
"It gets better each week," Lashlee said. "The quarterback gets more comfortable knowing where they're going to be; they get more comfortable knowing how you tick. The more weeks of practice, the more games you get, the better you're going to be."
Marshall has led Auburn to two last-minute wins and has solid stats. Not bad for a guy who took his first practice snap at Auburn in August.
"You've got to think we'll keep improving over time. And we're playing younger receivers, too, so they're just going to keep getting more confidence," Lashlee said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine