Over the next few weeks, SEC Country will take Auburn football fans to Summer School. Each session will focus on one position on Auburn’s 2018 roster, finding answers from spring practice and looking ahead to what might be the biggest questions for the fall.
Let’s continue with the wide receiver position of flanker also known as the 2 or Z.
- Eli Stove (junior — out indefinitely with torn ACL)
- Ryan Davis (senior)
- Devan Barrett (sophomore)
- Shedrick Jackson (freshman)
- Anthony Schwartz (freshman — summer enrollee)
- Noah Igbinoghene (sophomore)
Answers from spring practice
Who will replace Eli Stove at flanker following his ACL injury?
Auburn sustained one of its biggest spring practice injuries in recent memory when Eli Stove tore his right ACL in March. The Tigers believe he can come back at some point in the 2018 season, but he won’t be lining up outside in the season opener against Washington on Sept. 1.
Gus Malzahn said after spring practice that Auburn would replace Stove — its top flanker for the last two seasons — by committee. Davis can play both flanker and slot receiver, where he caught a school-record 84 passes last season. To replace Stove’s rushing production on speed sweeps, Auburn moved running back Barrett to the role. And then there’s Schwartz, the world record-holding track star who will most likely get opportunities out wide as a freshman.
Where does Devan Barrett fit into the offensive picture?
Barrett had almost as many receptions as he had carries as a freshman in 2017. So when Auburn decided to move him to wide receiver in the wake of Stove’s injury, it looked like an ideal fit. His performance and usage in the A-Day spring game was encouraging to the offensive staff. He comes from a family of receivers, and he did plenty of catching out of the backfield in high school.
Barrett wasn’t among the top candidates to be the starting running back, so sliding him to the outside could be just what he needs to have a big career at Auburn. He’ll need to learn the finer details of receiver play at the college level. But his talent meshes well with the position, and he could be a key playmaker for this offense as Stove recovers.
Numbers to know
10.05: Across his first two seasons at Auburn, Stove averaged a combined 10.05 yards per touch between receptions and carries. That’s the mark of a big-play machine, and the Tigers will have to replace his explosiveness in some other way for at least the first few games of the 2018 season.
80.6: Stove’s catch rate last season, per Football Study Hall, was 80.6 percent. That ranked second on the team behind Davis, who had a record-breaking season. Auburn will have to replace his sure-handed talents, especially on the screens and slants that were crucial in 2017.
Questions for the fall
How much playing time will Anthony Schwartz get this fall?
It’s easy for Auburn fans to get excited about Schwartz. He is the fastest high school sprinter in America, and there’s a good chance he’ll be the fastest player in all of college football as soon as he steps onto the field for the first time. His size and speed seem tailor-made for the flanker position.
But if Auburn uses Nate Craig-Myers more in the slot and bumps Davis to the outside, chances for Schwartz, Barrett and Jackson will be harder to grab. It will be nearly impossible to leave all that speed on the bench, though. If Schwartz can learn in fall camp half as quickly as he can run, he has some of the best upside to be an instant-impact freshman.
Have we seen the last of Noah Igbinoghene on offense?
Igbinoghene had a few chances on offense in 2017, but he did most of his damage on special teams as a kick returner. Then the Tigers moved him to cornerback in spring practice, where he did so well that he could be in line to start this fall.
As with Barrett, Auburn coaches won’t definitively say the position move is permanent. They continue to say Igbinoghene will play some offense. But Auburn’s depth at wide receiver — depth that was boosted even further with the freshman class — and need at cornerback forced an early move to defense. Adding three more receivers over the summer won’t make it easier to get Igbinoghene involved on offense.