Duke Williams Misses Friday Practice

Auburn wide receiver Duke Williams missed Friday's practice and his status moving forward is still "day-to-day" according to offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.

Auburn, Ala.--With Auburn senior wide receiver Duke Williams missing from Friday’s practice because of personal business and his status still “day-to-day” according to offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, the focus moves squarely to the rest of the group for the Tigers as fall camp marches on.

With Ricardo Louis, Melvin Ray and Marcus Davis all veterans that have delivered on this level Lashlee said right now his concern isn’t on Williams, but the guys he’s working with in practice.

“No concern at all,” Lashlee said of the situation. “I’m going to talk about the guys that were out there working hard today.”

Asked how frustrating it is to see his senior wide receiver not on the field and dealing with off the field issues again, Lashlee said that’s just part of life as a coach.

“They haven’t been frustrating at all,” he added. “We’ve got 105 kids on this team,” he added. “They’ve all got different things going on in their lives. We’re here to mentor them and help them through things. It’s just part of the process and he’s no different than guys we’ve coached in the past. Everybody has a different story.”

The biggest name outside of Williams is Louis. One of Auburn’s most dynamic playmakers, the former high school quarterback has made his share of big plays, but hasn’t shown the consistency needed to take it to the next level. That’s something Lashlee said he’s seen from his senior so far in camp.

“Ricardo has got loads of talent,” Lashlee said. “He’s made lots of plays the last two years, it’s just can he do it at a consistent rate? We’re asking more of him this year. He’s been another guy this first four days, and specifically after the first day, has really been practicing well. I just hope he stays where he’s at.”

A 26-year old senior after spending several years playing minor league baseball with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ray has experience and a knack for making the big play, but hasn’t been a big part of the offense to this point in his career with just a handful of catches the last two years. While he’s someone that Lashlee said has been as consistent as any receiver on the team and now it’s his time to shine.

“Coach has a lot of confidence in me,” Ray said. “Since I’ve been here I’ve just kind of been going with whatever they ask me to do. I took a lot of pride in blocking the last few years. I kind of learned and mastered that part of the game. I’ve tried to show consistently that when the ball is thrown my way I’m trying to do something with it and show that that’s just another weapon we got on offense. We got so many, so I just try to be one of them, and when my number is called I’ll make it. This year I just plan on doing what I can when I get it, and see what happens.”

Another player who hasn’t had as many opportunities is Davis. While he’s been a steady performer since his freshman season and dependable in the clutch, Davis is someone that Lashlee said he believes will have a big year for the Tigers.

“All he ever does when he’s in there is make big plays in big moments,” Lashlee said. “His role, I would think, would elevate this year.”

Yet another option for the Tigers at wide receiver is former quarterback signee Jason Smith. Moving to wide receiver in the spring and immediately making an impact, Smith has shown the ability to make plays and that’s something Lashlee said they like out of the junior college transfer so far.

“This spring he practiced a little bit at quarterback before he moved so it was moving a little fast for him,” Lashlee said. “I think this summer really helped him. He has put on some good weight, you can just tell he’s more muscular and looks more like a wideout now. He’s confident, things are moving slower, and you can just tell he’s in a good place. He’s been one of those guys the first four days that has been really impressive.”

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