Playing in a spread system at Leroy High School when Malzahn was the offensive coordinator at Auburn, the talented Coates said he's loving things so far this preseason.
"It's amazing to go back to the spread because that's what I was recruited to play," Coates said. "That's all I know is the spread so it made me smile a lot just to go back to it.
"The game has slowed down to me because I know it," he added. "When I was a freshman it was kind of hard because I just had to get used to everything. As soon as I got used to it I knew what I was doing. It's a whole lot easier now."
Working on getting bigger and stronger in the offseason to help him get off the line of scrimmage against aggressive defensive backs, Coates said he also worked hard on the fundamental part of the game. That meant more time catching passes and working on his route running after snaring just six receptions in 2012 with several key drops along with way.
"Last year I probably had a drop every now and then, but this year I've been trying my best to catch everything thrown my way and run the best routes I can," Coates said. "It's just been all about getting better each and every day.
"I am just focused more," he added. "It's all about a mind thing. When you're playing football it's where your focus is at. If you're ready to play football, you'll be playing football. If you're not ready to play football, you're going to be thinking about something else going on. It's all about focusing."
Coates flashes some of his ability with a hail mary touchdown grab last season.
Coates and the rest of the receivers have gotten plenty of competition this fall from the newcomers brought in by Coach Dameyune Craig. While Tony Stevens got plenty of early talk before being slowed by a strained hamstring, the most consistent of the newcomers has been former high school quarterback Marcus Davis.
A speedster who is playing inside at the slot receiver position, Davis had adapted well to his new role and both Coates and Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashee see a bright future for him with the Tigers.
"He's been doing an amazing job," Coates said of Davis. "He's been getting off the ball, he's real quick, makes good catches, just doing real good."
Two more newcomers pushing to get into the mix are quarterbacks Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson. Coming from junior college, Marshall is the player with plenty of athleticism and a cannon for an arm. A big-time basketball recruit in addition to his football skills, Johnson is the six-foot-five quarterback who has all the tools to be a game-changer for the Tigers. Coates said so far both have lived up to advance billing.
"They're really working hard and they're really competing," Coates said. "There's really no difference between them. They're bringing the best out of this team. They're throwing the ball good and competing well. It's just coming do in to the wire."
With just over two weeks left until Auburn opens the season against Washington State on Aug. 31, the search is still on for a go-to receiver for the Tigers. Coates said there are plenty of guys that have made strides so far in camp and he thinks when the time comes they'll be ready.
"We're doing real good," Coates said. "We keeping up with what's going on. We're getting along with the plays. We're keeping up with the pace and everything's looking really good.
""We know what we've got," he added. "We know what we had last year is gone, but what we're going to do with it. We've got a lot of talent in our room. We've just got to compete every day and get better."