With Jarrett Stidham as QB1, the work begins for Auburn’s ‘really special’ receivers
AUBURN, Ala. — It’s safe to say Kodi Burns and Auburn football’s receivers had been waiting on Monday for quite some time.
That’s when Auburn announced Jarrett Stidham would be its starting quarterback for the 2017 season, ending a battle between the Baylor transfer and former starter Sean White. Four days before the decision, Burns — Auburn’s wide receivers coach — said it would affect what his players would do in practice moving forward.
“I think it’s really about once we name a quarterback, getting time with the quarterbacks and start working before practice, during practice and after practice in timing routes and getting good at what we do,” Burns said.
That work is under way for Auburn’s receivers as they go through the third week of fall camp. During the first two weeks, Darius Slayton, Nate Craig-Myers, Eli Stove and Kyle Davis mostly stuck to themselves in drills during media viewing windows. Running backs and offensive linemen worked closely with the quarterbacks, but the receivers worked alone.
Of course, Auburn’s receivers undoubtedly worked with the quarterbacks at practices once the cameras were out of the indoor practice facility. The first two scrimmages featured plenty of passes between the two sides in game-like scenarios.
But Burns’ emphasis the first two weeks of camp was on the fundamentals of playing wide receiver — the drills that didn’t necessarily need the battling quarterbacks’ involvement.
“Whoever that guy is going to be, we have time to really get the timing down after practice, during practice,” Burns said last week. “Right now, we’re just trying to rep guys and make sure they know our base offense. We’ll go from there.”
Now, in Week 3, Auburn’s receivers can put it together with Stidham, who is excited about the potential of his targets.
“Coming from Baylor, I got to work with a lot of talented wide receivers, but this group — they’re really, really special,” Stidham said Monday. “The good thing about [it] is there’s a lot of young talent. … They’re a great, great group of guys and they love to play football, so I’m just trying to get the ball in their hands as much as I can.”
Stidham’s move to the top of the depth chart will be a catalyst for the Auburn receivers, which are in tough position battles of their own. Many of them are underclassmen, with junior Ryan Davis being the only one with an experience advantage.
Burns said he wants to get a solid two-deep at each position, and the Tigers could line up four receivers at a time in Chip Lindsey’s offense. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Monday the staff would evaluate those deep battles at receiver on Thursday, the Tigers’ next off day.
“Maybe in the past there hasn’t been as much and everything was pretty defined,” Malzahn said. “But I think it’s a positive from a depth standpoint that we have some quality guys that we feel like can do some things. Maybe that will be able to keep some guys fresher. We’re still working through that.”
Once Auburn has a solid first and second team at receiver, the main goal will be building chemistry with Stidham, who has only been on campus for eight months.
“I feel like our timing is really, really good right now,” Stidham said. “Obviously we can get a lot better, so I think over the next two-and-a-half, three weeks, before that first game, we’re really going to focus in on those routes and making sure we’re on time with everything. Hopefully here in two-and-a-half weeks, it will pay off for us.”
Some of the receivers showed off that good timing with Stidham last Saturday, when the sophomore quarterback had a strong showing in limited scrimmage work. A few others made big plays alongside White and freshman quarterback Malik Willis.
Since there are two sides to every successful passing attack, Malzahn knows he needs to see more of that in camp, now that he has his QB1.
“You had some young guys make some big plays and a couple of them did some things with the ball after they caught it [on Saturday],” Malzahn said. “That’s the group that we’ve been challenging. … The offensive success, a big key is going to be the receivers stepping up, and I’ve seen them get better. It’s just a matter of getting out there in a game and doing it.”