AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn needs help at receiver.
It’s a hot topic in the Auburn meeting room, and coaches are not hiding the fact they need help from their four heralded newcomers immediately.
“There’s no question,” offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said.
Auburn practiced through the spring with only five healthy scholarship receivers. There is some experience — Tony Stevens and Marcus Davis return — but none of the players on the roster have recorded what many would label a breakout season. The Tigers also lose 65 percent of their production (1,467 yards) from last season, including the top receiver (Ricardo Louis) and top receiving option out of the backfield (Roc Thomas).
That’s why names like Nate Craig-Myers, Kyle Davis, Eli Stove and Marquis McClain will be repeated often throughout the summer and when the Tigers begin preseason practices in August.
“It’s going to be really exciting to see how the true freshmen receivers react early and if that motivates any older guys,” Lashlee said. “We’re going to need a couple of those guys to come in and make an impact. That’s what we’re counting on and we’re going to give them every opportunity to do that.”
Auburn’s receiving class is considered a top-10 group — if not the best crop in the country — but talent can only take players so far on the football field. Craig-Myers appears to be the best of the bunch on paper (he ranked as high as No. 2 in the country by the recruiting services), but that could change once the Tigers strap on the pads and helmets in August.
“I had the opportunity to sit in some meetings with the Auburn guys and what they do is fairly complicated, but to some degree you do what you have to do with the personnel,” said Mike Gregory, Craig-Myers’ coach at Tampa Catholic. “I think they’ll find a way to get him on the field. Looking at the receiver group they have now, I think he can certainly go in and contribute right away. Nothing against those guys, but just knowing what he can do physically, really the sky is the limit for him.”
Three of the new receivers (Craig-Myers, Davis and Stove) were selected to the Under Armour All-America Game, ranking among the nation’s top 15 players at their position, according to the major recruiting services.
“Just based off of numbers right now, those guys have to come in and help us out,” Auburn receivers coach Kodi Burns said. “I believe they’re going to prepare, too. We’re going to get them ready and the good thing is that now the NCAA allows us to work with guys two hours a week (in the summer), so that will be big, especially for these young guys and getting them in this summer, being able to work with them. We’re going to get it done.”
All four receivers are already on Auburn’s campus. Davis enrolled in January but battled a shoulder injury and did not participate in the majority of practices.
“The good thing with Kyle was that he was able to get a spring underneath his belt, even though he didn’t practice, which is fine,” Burns said. “He can see how we do things, he can see how I coach, he can see how I teach. That was really good for him to sit back and say, hey, coach, what do I do on this route? What do you think on this play?”
Finding a spot for the foursome on the field will be interesting in August. None of them have preconceived notions about where they will fit in the system, especially considering the coaches move the receivers all over the field.
“Just like all of these guys, they’re really talented but we do have to understand they are freshmen,” Burns said. “I don’t care what you did in high school. It’s a different level now. Even in practice it’s going to be different.”