Elijah Stove (above) is one of Auburn's new wide receivers.
Auburn, Ala.--With time dwindling for players on the bubble of earning enough trust from their coaches to warrant playing time on opening night, the
Auburn Tigers practiced for two hours on Wednesday evening as they continue preparations to play Clemson.
One of the biggest questions of the preseason is how much help the Tigers will get from their true freshman wide receivers at a position at which Auburn needs help.
Because of that Gus Malzahn and his staff invested four of their class of 2016 scholarships in wideouts with a trio of four-star recruits (Nate Craig, Elijah Stove and Kyle Davis) joining three-star Elijah Stove, who has made a good push to break into the playing rotation.
“Feeling comfortable in the offense is what it is going to come down,” Kodi Burns told Inside the Auburn Tigers when asked what will determine when each freshman will get an opportunity to play in games.
“They are all athletic, which I think is what everybody expected,” Burns said. “It is not just about being athletic, it is how you translate that athletic ability into playing college football because I don’t care how athletic you are it isn’t going to work at this level unless you use fundamentals and good technique.”
Kyle Davis, who arrived in January, has been a regular on the practice field, dressed out and ready to go, but he didn’t get the medical clearance to have contact until this week after recovering from injuries to his shoulder, which required surgery, and to his foot.
After practicing indoors on a rainy Wednesday the Tigers will work out again on Thursday evening and have a pre-breakfast practice on Friday, enabling players an opportunity to go home before the team practices again on Sunday.
The Tigers will need contributions from their two senior wide receivers, Tony Stevens and Marcus Davis.
“Tony has made some plays and has done a great job of picking up the offense,” Burns said. “He understands it being in the offense for three years. I think both he and Marcus Davis have a sense of urgency because they understand this is their last season.”
Burns noted that two of the returning players, junior Jason Smith and redshirt sophomore Stanton Truitt, look like they “are quicker” this preseason than in the spring.
Truitt is back to full speed after having shoulder surgery. Burns said that Truitt, a former high school quarterback, has dropped weight and that has improved his quickness. Smith, who was also a high school quarterback, has been more intense in practices than he was in the spring and also has a better understanding of his assignments, the wide receivers coach pointed out.”
Marquis McClain (17) listens to Kodi Burns, his position coach.
Burns, a former quarterback turned wide receiver at Auburn, made the move to his alma mater prior to spring training after taking a job as the running backs coach at Arizona State. However, his stay in Tempe was a very short one before he packed up and joined Gus Malzahn’s staff at Auburn. In 2015 Burns was wide receivers coach at Middle Tennessee State.
Ryan Davis, who played sparingly last season as a true freshman, has made progress in his transition from high school quarterback to college receiver. Burns said that the sophomore understands the offense and can line up at multiple positions, which should increase his odds of earning more playing time than last fall.
Another receiver in the 2015 signee class, Darius Slayton, is trying to earn a spot in the playing rotation after redshirting last fall. Burns said that Slayton has the speed to run deep routes and has shown a willingness to handle the physical nature of SEC football. “His willingness to learn and compete is at a real high level,” the coach noted.
Commenting on the guys he is coaching this preseason, Burns said, “As a whole this receiver group has had a good fall camp. We just have to keep building on that.”
The Tigers will open their season on Saturday, Sept. 3rd with a home game vs. Clemson. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. CDT. Malzahn and his assistants are expected to announce their opening game depth chart on Tuesday.