AUBURN, Ala. — No one on Auburn football’s 2017 roster had more receiving yards last season than sophomore Darius Slayton. But the Tigers spent the first two weeks of spring practice without their young leader at wideout.
Slayton participated in his first full spring practice for Auburn on Tuesday — the first session following spring break — after offseason hernia surgery.
“Darius Slayton came back and had his first practice today,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We didn’t just throw him in and let him go. We tried to be strategic and smart about it. But he got quite a few reps, and each practice we’ll bring him a little more along.”
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Slayton had 15 catches for 292 yards and 1 touchdown last season as a redshirt freshman. Only Tony Stevens, who graduated, had more receiving yards in 2016 for the Tigers.
A Norcross, Ga., native, Slayton was arguably Auburn’s most consistent receiver last fall. According to Football Study Hall, Slayton led all Auburn receivers with a success rate of 62.5 percent, and he caught 54.2 percent of his targets.
While Slayton wasn’t full speed in his return to action Tuesday, fellow receiver Ryan Davis spoke highly of how the sophomore performed.
“He looked pretty good, just knocking some rust off,” Davis said. “You know, it’s his first day back. He’s been sitting for a while trying to rehab … he looked just as fast as he always did, just knocking some rust off and getting back into the field of play and getting back into the groove of everything.”
For Slayton, Tuesday represented the first time to work under new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, who spoke highly of him earlier this month.
“I’m excited to see him on the field,” Lindsey said March 7. “Obviously I’ve seen him on film, but I haven’t had the chance to work with him yet. Looking forward to getting him back sometime.”
With Kyle Davis out indefinitely because of “personal business” and John Franklin III moving to the position from quarterback, Auburn’s receivers have gone through a lot in the first six spring practices.
That made Slayton’s return even more important Tuesday, as the coaching staff believes he could be a top player during the 2017 season.
“He’s got the ability to kind of be one of the leaders of that group,” Malzahn said. “It was good to have him back out there.”