Auburn, Ala.--With Auburn needing wide receivers in a big way the Tigers came up huge in the 2016 class with four top players at the position coming onboard and expected to compete for playing time immediately in the fall. Losing Ricardo Louis, Melvin Ray and Jonathan Wallace with both Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens seniors next season, Auburn needed some serious help and will get that in the form of Nate Craig, Kyle Davis, Marquis McClain and Elijah Stove.
“Our wide receiver class, I think is the top in the country,” Malzahn said. “They are guys we went after over a year ago. They are guys we hand-picked and we went after and we got them. Coach (Dameyune) Craig and the offensive staff deserve a lot of credit. They did a wonderful job with that group.”
Picking Auburn over North Carolina on signing day, Nate Craig is a player that originally committed to the Tigers as a junior and was committed almost a full year before backing off that decision heading into his senior year. While schools such as Alabama, Florida and Florida State made a push for him, in the end he was all Auburn and Malzahn said he’s a guy they’ve been picturing in the offense for a long time.
“Nate Craig-Myers is a guy we identified two years ago,” Malzahn said. “We really feel like he is one of the best overall players in the entire country. He’s a big guy that can go get the football. He’s tough to tackle and has that competitive edge. He’s got a great family and is a wonderful person. Coach Craig did a really good job of recruiting him. We’re really excited about him. He’s a got a chance to be an impact player for us.”
Already on campus, Davis is one of the most physical receivers in the country out of Archer High in Lawrenceville, Ga. Despite having shoulder surgery following his senior season Davis is back working out and could do some work in the spring but Malzahn said there is no question the freshman can compete and compete early because of his skill set.
“Kyle Davis is a big receiver,” Davis said. “We really put an emphasis in this class on big guys that can run and do some things with the ball after they catch it. We think he’s got a chance to be a phenomenal player.”
One of the biggest sleepers in the class, McClain has all the physical tools to be a huge steal for the Tigers. At 6-2, 210 with 4.4 speed and a 38 inch vertical leap, the Crestview (Fla.) standout chose Auburn over Mississippi State and Malzahn said he’s the type of guy that a team needs because of his willingness to go over the middle.
“Marquis McClain is another big receiver, a guy that is 6-foot-2, a little over 200 pounds,” Malzahn said. “He has a 40-inch vertical and runs a 4.5 40. He came to camp and really stood out to us. We really feel good about him.
Rounding out the wide receiver group for the Tigers is the four-star Stove. A speedster with the quickness to play in the slot but also the size to play outside, Stove committed to Auburn over the summer and never wavered despite schools such as Florida trying to make a run at him throughout the fall. Malzahn his skill set gives Auburn lots of options in the way they can use him in the offense.
“Eli Stove is a guy that we’ve been recruiting for almost two years,” Malzahn said. “He’s got a wonderful family, and we really feel like he’s got a very unique skill set. We think he has the chance to be an impact player. He can really do some things with the ball once he gets the ball in his hands. We think he is going to do a great job for us and have a chance to help us next year.”