AUBURN, Ala. — Eli Stove already showed he could catch fire quickly against Arkansas. One week later at Ole Miss, he proved he could keep the heat going.
After his breakout performance in a 56-3 rout of Arkansas, Stove was the Tigers’ most-targeted receiver in a 40-29 win over Ole Miss last Saturday night. Stove caught a career-high 5 passes for 37 yards and also got a carry against the Rebels.
“Eli is electric, there’s no doubt,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. “He’s an electric player … He’s a tough guy. We’re trying to get him the ball in a lot of different ways.”
Stove, who hasn’t spoken to the media this season, went from little-used true freshman to highlight-reel star on Auburn’s first snap against Arkansas. He took a speed-sweep handoff from quarterback Sean White and sprinted for a 78-yard touchdown that set the tone for what would be a record-breaking rout.
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Auburn got the ball to Stove on the second drive of the game against Ole Miss on a fly sweep — a play in which the quarterback takes the snap and quickly flips it forward to a receiver in motion across the formation.
Stove took that toss from White and broke free for a 12-yard gain. He was also used as a dummy H-back on dump-off passes into the flats for White. After a pair of solid games against SEC opponents, the Tigers are looking for any way to get Stove’s impressive speed in space.
“Well, I mean, he can run,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “He’s really fast, he’s really shifty, he’s long … I just think he’s peaking as a freshman this season at the right time.”
The freshman from Niceville, Fla., only had one touch in the first four games of the season. But after carrying the ball twice against Louisiana-Monroe, Stove recorded 10 touches in the last two games.
Those numbers might not catch a lot of attention at first glance, but it’s a big development for a newcomer in an offense that loves to spread the ball around the field.
“He is electric. He is a playmaker,” White said after the win against Arkansas. “When he’s got his chances this year, I think he’s done extremely well. He’s only going to get more involved and get better. I’m just really happy for Eli.”
Stove also showcased his durability against Ole Miss. The 6-foot, 177-pound receiver tweaked his ankle but was able to return and become a key target toward the end of the game. White went Stove’s direction three times in a high-pressure fourth quarter and completed two of those passes for first downs.
“I thought he showed good toughness last night,” Lashlee said. “He got a little dinged up, but it didn’t faze him. He stayed in.”
With his speed and versatility, Stove is an ideal candidate to get more touches as Auburn hits a high-profile November stretch that includes matchups against Georgia and Alabama.
Eli Stove is so smooth.
— Benjamin Wolk (@benjaminwolk) October 30, 2016
Right now, it’s hard to see this Stove cooling off any time soon for the Tigers.
“He made some big plays for us,” Lashlee said. “He’s doing a lot of good things. He’ll continue to help us down the stretch, big-time.”