AUBURN, Ala. — In an otherwise somber press conference, Marcus Davis smiled once.
The Auburn senior wide receiver served as the offensive spokesperson during Tuesday’s media season, which isn’t an enviable role amidst the Tigers’ offensive woes. Mostly, Davis answered questions about the team’s abundance of negative plays, the most concerning offensive struggles and the challenge of LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White — all frown-worthy topics.
But when asked about Dameyune Craig, who played quarterback at Auburn and coached receivers (2013-15) before taking the same post at LSU, Davis’ face lit up about the opportunity to chat about his old position coach.
“It feels good. You want to go out there and play your best against your coach,” Davis said. “But other than that, it’s just another game. Just go out there and have fun.”
Davis said he keeps in touch with Craig “every now and then,” but conversations have diminished as the 2016 season has began. Craig spent three seasons with Auburn, from 2013-2015. He left this past offseason to join the rival Tigers, which paved the way for Kodi Burns to come on board.
But Craig’s fingerprints are still all over the Auburn wide receiver group.
Davis, Tony Stevens, Stanton Truitt, Darius Slayton all had Craig as their lead recruiter. The same goes for the trio of freshmen receivers Kyle Davis, Nate Craig-Myers and Eli Stove. Craig immediately became one of Auburn’s most effective recruiters, particularly at the receiver position.
So for many of the receivers still with the Tigers, the matchup against Craig will be bittersweet.
Slayton called Craig an “emotional leader,” referencing his former coach’s ability to help guide his pupils through distracting off-the-field situations. But when that receivers leader left during the offseason, along with a number of other coaching changes, it stunned many of the receivers Craig brought on board to Auburn.
“I was, honestly, I was surprised at first. It just kind of happened,” Slayton said.
Now Auburn’s receivers must face off against their former position coach.
Still early in the 2016 season, the LSU and Auburn passing games have struggled. Both teams find themselves in the bottom half of the SEC in passing yards per game and passing touchdowns. It will be a game for both sides to recover from sloppy starts.
And bragging rights will be involved.
“I think you’ve got to be aware of it,” Gus Malzahn said. “But at the end of the day, when they put the ball down, your guys have to make plays. Both teams are going to be familiar with each other.”