AUBURN, Ala. — Nate Craig-Myers entered the 2016 season as one of Auburn football’s most anticipated signees. But nagging injuries limited his impact, and he finished his first year with just 70 receiving yards.
On Saturday, though, Craig-Myers exceeded that season total in just one half of football.
“It felt good,” Craig-Myers said. “Just knowing that I can make those plays all spring and coming out here and showing fans what they wanted to see, it was definitely a good feeling.”
The sophomore receiver from Dade City, Fla., led all Auburn receivers with a massive 154 yards in the A-Day spring game. On his second snap of the day, Craig-Myers raced down the sideline and caught a deep ball from new quarterback Jarrett Stidham for a 50-yard gain.
The arrivals of Stidham and new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey brought the promise of a stronger downfield passing game for the Tigers. However, Auburn needed someone to step up in its young receiving corps and catch those long throws.
“That was the challenge that [Auburn receivers coach] Kodi [Burns] had for his whole group,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “They have experience from last year, but now it’s time to take that next step. You know, there’s nothing better than doing it out there on the game field in front of a crowd and all that.”
Judging by the spring game, Craig-Myers could be that receiver — even though he had the second-fewest yardage of all Tigers wideouts last season. All 5 of his catches Saturday went for more than 15 yards, which was a big development for a passing game that averaged 12.4 yards per grab last season.
“I was definitely excited,” Craig-Myers said. “Coach Lindsey, his scheme is definitely for receivers who can come in and make plays. He trusts in the quarterbacks and the receivers to go out there and make some plays.”
Players and coaches spoke highly of a healthy Craig-Myers’ development throughout the spring. It showed Saturday.
“Coming from being a freshman to a sophomore is a big jump,” junior quarterback Sean White said. “I think that showed today. I think [Craig-Myers and fellow sophomore Darius Slayton] are both really improving. I’m really excited about our receivers. All spring long, I think they’ve done a great job.”
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At 6-foot-2 and boasting good speed, Craig-Myers looks like the ideal target for Stidham and the Auburn passing game in 2017. The former Baylor quarterback feels like he has good weapons outside in Craig-Myers and fellow starter Slayton.
“The coverage that they gave us, that was just where the ball needed to go,” Stidham said. “Darius and Nate, they both did really good jobs today of stepping up and making some plays. That’s what we’ve got to have if we want to be successful. Those guys on the outside, getting up and going to get the ball and making plays on the field.”
As for his specific role in 2017, Craig-Myers says he could be the new vertical threat Auburn needs.
But after a frustrating freshman campaign in which he only had 1 catch in four separate games, Craig-Myers just wants to get on the field regularly.
“I really want to make a play whenever I can, be it a deep ball or a screen,” Craig-Myers said. “Whatever coach Lindsey’s got for me.”