Auburn coach Gus Malzahn spoke to the media for the first time since wide receiver D’haquille “Duke” Williams was dismissed from the program on Monday.
“Any time you have to make a tough call and dismiss a player, it’s not easy,” Malzahn said. “I’ve seen (Duke) grow as a person while he was here, and I think this place was good for him.”
Williams came to Auburn as the No. 1-ranked Junior College wide receiver prospect and led the team in receptions in 2014. The talented wideout chose Auburn over LSU.
The first sign of trouble for Williams came at the end of last season, when he was suspended for the Outback Bowl. Then he was suspended for six days in August for an undisclosed incident in practice.
His last chance was used up this past weekend when he was dismissed for his involvement in another incident at a local club.
“You have to draw a line somewhere.” senior wide receiver Jonathan Wallace told reporters. “Personally I love (Duke) to death, but it had to be done.”
The Tigers will move on to a matchup with Kentucky on Oct. 15, but Williams will leave the school and no longer be enrolled in classes. The 6-foot-2 receiver entered the season ranked as the No. 1 NFL wide receiver prospect, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper.
The NFL could still be a possibility for Williams, although his draft stock likely took a hit with his dismissal. Discipline issues aside, his talent was evident when he led the team with 45 catches in 2014.
The other receivers on the team, including Wallace, will have to replace Williams’ production.
“We have leaders who will step up,” Wallace told reporters on Tuesday. “There’s a different sense of urgency.”
Williams’ 12 receptions accounted for just over 17 percent of the completed passes Auburn has through five games this season.
It hurts the team to lose a player with the type of talent Williams possessed, but after implementing a three strike program with the receiver, the coaching staff obviously found it difficult to reconcile his final mistake.
“I’m disappointed it didn’t work out,” Malzahn said. “Our team will be fine and move on.”
Jonathan Wallace says there's a "different sense of urgency" without Duke Williams. "It was exciting to see the young guys step up today."
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) October 6, 2015