Auburn, Ala.--With spring football practice in the books the Auburn Tigers now focus on preparing for the 2017 season. Getting a taste of a new-look offense under coordinator Chip Lindsey with more emphasis on the passing game, the spring was all about getting up to speed throwing the football to bring that up to speed as quickly as possible to go along with the normally powerful running game. Because of that we have a heavy dose of guys involved in the passing game in our five spring practice risers for the Auburn Tigers:
Sal Cannella: Signing with Auburn in December as a junior college graduate, the former basketball player turned tight end still needs to improve his game in terms of physicality, but there is no question he is a player who can help catching the football. With wide receiver skills and a big frame, Sal Cannella could be big help for the Tigers as they continue to add to the passing game under Lindsey. With his big frame and good hands Cannella could be the red zone threat the Tigers have missed the last few seasons.
Sal Canella will be a redshirt sophomore this fall.
Nate Craig: Coming to Auburn last season with plenty of expectations, Nate Craig battled through a series of minor injuries last fall which limited his playing time and production. Full speed and excited with the newfound emphasis on the passing game, Craig had a strong spring for the Tigers and finished it with five catches for 154 yards in the A-Day game. With the size to go over the middle and the speed to stretch the field vertically, Craig should be a big part of the Auburn offense this season.
Will Hastings: Catching seven passes in the A-Day game may have surprised some, but Will Hastings was a go-to guy for the quarterbacks from the moment they stepped on the field for spring practices. One of the most prolific receivers in Arkansas high school football history, Hastings understands route running and defenses, making him a great fit when you spread the field and allow him to work the middle with his quick feet. That’s what he did well all spring and it should continue into the fall.
Jarrett Stidham: It’s hard to imagine a player entering the program with more hype than the Baylor transfer had when he signed with the Tigers in December, but four months into his career at Auburn it’s safe to say that Jarrett Stidham has answered all the questions to this point. Stepping up in a leadership role immediately when he arrived on campus, Stidham showed his ability to play the quarterback position at a high level this spring with a strong arm and the athleticism to add things in the running game. While he’s still in a battle with Sean White for the starting job when practice resumes in August, Stidham’s transition to Auburn so far has been just what the coaches were hoping for out of the five-star talent.
Malik Willis: While Stidham entered with the weight of the world on his shoulders, true freshman Malik Willis seemed to be almost an afterthought when he switched his commitment from Virginia Tech to Auburn very late in the process. Recruited by the Hokies to play defensive back, Willis shined in the playoffs at Roswell (Ga.) High and that was enough for the Tigers to give him a shot at quarterback. Putting in a ton of work and showing a natural ability at the position, Willis served notice in spring practice that he’s going to be someone to watch for Auburn and likely sooner than just about anyone expected.