AU's Wide Receiver Competition Going Strong

Auburn's wide receiver position group had a solid spring, but more is expected of those players heading into the fall.

Auburn, Ala.—With 61 career receptions between them, juniors Trovon Reed and Quan Bray make up the bulk of Auburn's returning catches and both had a solid spring practice for the Tigers under the direction of Gus Malzahn and AU's new receivers coach, Dameyune Craig. While the remaining receivers have just 10 combined catches, the talent is there to take strides forward and several talented newcomers in the fall should make for some interesting battles in the fall.

"Somebody, one, two, three of those guys have got to step up and decide they want to be elite SEC receivers," Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says. "They've got the talent and they're heading in the right direction. I think they gained some confidence. We're not there yet.

"We've got to get some guys who raise their level even much more than they think they can," Lashlee adds. "That's our job. That's what coaching is, taking players to a place they can't reach on their own so that is what we're going to try to do."

Quan Bray could also see action as a wildcat quarterback this season.

It starts with the guys on campus. Along with Reed and Bray, fellow junior Jaylon Denson has experience, but little receiving production to show for it his first two seasons. That should change after he was perhaps the standout performer of spring practice among all the wide receivers.

Developing into the dependable target the coaches are looking for at the position, Denson earned one of the first team spots coming out of the spring and will battle with talented sophomore Sammie Coates for playing time in the fall.

"Both of those guys kind of settled down into that position, and at times made some very good plays," Malzahn says. "We just talked about being consistent, but both of those guys are big, physical guys."

Jaylon Denson made just one catch last season.

Behind Reed at the flanker position is Ricardo Louis. With three catches for 36 yards last season, Louis got valuable experience as a true freshman, but is ready for more. A talented runner, the former high school quarterback brings excitement to a position that needs it, notes Malzahn.

"I felt like both had a solid spring," the head coach says. "That is a position that we ask to do a little bit more than just a regular receiver. We feel like that position needs to have some running back skills, and both of those guys carried the football some during the spring."

Sammie Coates has the speed to be a deep threat

Bray may become the most important of the receivers for the Tigers in the fall. Playing in the slot, he is a player Auburn hopes to get more involved both in the short game and down the field. Malzahn says Bray is the kind of player the Tigers need to make things happen on offense in 2013.

"Quan is one of those real versatile guys," Malzahn says. "I can take you back a couple of years ago when he was actually playing the tailback position so he has got running back skills. You'll see us try to get the ball to him in space and let him do his thing as far as that goes."

Rounding out the group is the "Y" position that is a hybrid tight end/wide receiver spot. Juniors Brandon Fulse and C.J. Uzomah both have experience in the position after playing it as true freshmen in 2011. With walk-on Melvin Ray also in the mix, Auburn has three viable options at the spot that could become a mismatch for defenses next fall.

With signees Earnest Robinson, Tony Stevens, and Dominic Walker having the potential to contribute, Auburn's wide receiver play has the potential to take a big step forward this season. Now that spring practice is done the next step is to improve during the summer in workouts and throwing sessions to hit the ground running in two-a-day practices. Lashlee says that's a must if the Tigers hope to get where they want next fall on offense.

"We've got a bunch of guys that are all just kind of there right now and they're getting better and they're just kind of in a pack," the offensive coordinator says. "Much like the quarterbacks have got a big jump to make during the summer, those guys have got to take it to the next level."

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