Editor’s Note: It’s a crucial year in Auburn. Gus Malzahn enters his fourth season in a bit of a rut, but he has proven he can quickly change the trajectory of the program when his team’s back is against the wall.
Auburn needs to find a quarterback, develop receivers and lean on a defense many expect to be much improved under coordinator Kevin Steele. Will all of the pieces come together in time for a successful season?
SEC Country takes a look at the 25 Most Important Tigers (and others) who will determine whether Auburn’s season is a success or failure.
11. Jason Smith, receiver
There was a play at the start of the 2015 season that seemingly changed the Tigers’ course. The perfect deep pass to Jason Smith went over his shoulder and into his out-stretched hands for a 56-yard touchdown. Auburn was on its way to a 31-3 lead in the third quarter against Louisville, but a holding call brought the ball back and the momentum immediately shifted to the other sideline. The Tigers held on for a 31-24 victory, but a blowout was wasted and for whatever reason it seemed like quarterback Jeremy Johnson’s confidence was shaken — and one could pinpoint his disastrous turn for the worse to that moment his perfect pass to Smith was wiped off the board.
Smith (6-foot-1, 188 pounds) didn’t get many opportunities after that play to catch deep balls, though his tipped pass and catch for a 77-yard touchdown in the Iron Bowl was special. Still, Smith has proven himself capable of stretching the field and turning in a big play or two in a game if provided the chance. We think this season could very well be a big one for the junior, who caught 13 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns in 2015.
He has the speed, he has the hands and now it’s just a matter of finding the right quarterback to get him the ball.
Coming Monday: Step up
- No. 25 — Josh Holsey, cornerback/safety
- No. 24 — Leonard Fournette, LSU running back
- No. 23 — Rudy Ford, safety
- No. 22 — Chandler Cox, H-Back
- No. 21 — Paul James III, defensive end
- No. 20 — Kamryn Pettway, H-Back
- No. 19 — Kirby Smart, Georgia coach
- No. 18 — Austin Golson, offensive tackle
- No. 17 — Marlon Davidson, defensive end
- No. 16 — Carlton Davis, cornerback
- No. 15 — T.J. Neal, linebacker
- No. 14 — Tre’ Williams, linebacker
- No. 13 — Nick Saban, Alabama coach
- No. 12 — Eli Stove, receiver