Benjamin Wolk/SEC Country
Auburn WR Kyle Davis has impressed coaches and teammates in his return to practice.

Auburn WR Kyle Davis has done more than his part after things got ‘personal’

AUBURN, Ala. — Kyle Davis is back at practice for Auburn football, and that means the sophomore wide receiver’s entire package — the size, the athleticism and, of course, the dancing — is back.

Davis missed all of spring practices because of what Gus Malzahn called “personal reasons.” He returned to campus for the summer, and he has been a fixture at the first week of Auburn’s fall practices.

According to first-year offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, that missed time didn’t slow him down.

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“He’s done a great job since he’s been back,” Lindsey said. “He’s really, really gotten into the film room and studied the things we’re doing that are a little different that maybe he hadn’t done before. He’s very impressive obviously physically. He has a lot of natural ability.

“He’s like all of us — he needs to continue to improve, but I really like what I’ve seen so far.”

Davis was one of the highest-rated recruits for Auburn in its 2016 class, and the Georgia native wasted no time in making an impact for the Tigers. He had 12 receptions for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns last fall and is expected to be a key player in Lindsey’s pass-friendlier scheme.

The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Davis wasn’t always one of the first receivers on the field during media viewing sessions last week. However, he still has the opportunity to start in 2017, and he’s gone to work at improving one of his problem areas from last season.

“He’s the same ol’ Kyle,” junior running back Kerryon Johnson said. “He’s big, he’s fast and he’s a pure athlete. The thing that’s impressed me is that he’s blocking extremely well so far in fall camp. … He really is in that position of, hey, I’ll do whatever I can to help the team. I think that’s helped him a lot.”

Davis brings elite size and versatility to an Auburn receiving group that features a range of athletes from physical talents including Nate Craig-Myers to slender speedsters Eli Stove and Ryan Davis.

Auburn moved Davis around in several positions during the first week of camp. He has the build to challenge returning leader Darius Slayton and Craig-Myers for reps on the outside, but he could carve out a home in the “big slot” position in four-wide receiver sets.

Davis’ gifts have earned him a unique nickname from Slayton, a fellow Georgia native who spurned the in-state Bulldogs to play for the Tigers.

“I call him a mutant,” Slayton said. “But he’s a really good player, too. I think he brings a lot of energy to the table. He’s a very excitable guy. … He’s a big kid. I wish I came in looking like that.”

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Johnson said the freakish Davis has picked up where he left off last season, when he was making big-time catches downfield.

“Kyle missed spring, and it’s literally like he doesn’t miss a beat,” Johnson said. “He’s came out and the knowledge stayed with him. Now it’s just knocking the rust off, but like I said, I think he’s done very good.”

Those lining up against Davis in practice see those same skills, but they also see a difference in him.

“I think he’s been working hard and he’s just trying to prove he’s a better person and better player,” sophomore defensive back Javaris Davis said. “He’s more mature. … I feel like he’s grown. He’s becoming a leader.”

Auburn wants to see that leadership continue from Davis, who remains a high-energy player in practices.

After the long absence in the spring, the “same ol’ Kyle” is back — and it’s been a lift to the rest of the Tigers receivers.

“He’s got a lot of personality,” Slayton said. “I’ve actually known Kyle for a long time … That’s just always been Kyle. Just like I said, an excitable kid. He brings a lot of energy and fun to the game. It’s good to have him out there.”