Head coach Tommy Tuberville says that the improved play of the receivers as a group was one of the positives of the spring. Tuberville says that players like Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor, Silas Daniels and Devin Aromashodu made significant strides.
"I believe I did pretty well," says Obomanu, who will be a junior this fall. "The one thing I want to work on is being more aggressive and more physical. I want to catch the ball more and beef up a little more. I think I made progress in those areas, but there is always room for improvement."
Obomanu made plenty of good catches in the scrimmages throughout the spring, including one of the best efforts of the 15 days of practice when he made a one-hand grab in A-Day game on a pass from Brandon Cox. Even though pass interference could have been called on the play and one of his arms was being held, he found a way to catch the football with one hand and then held on when free safety Will Herring drilled him in the jaw.
"The coaches talk to us about making sure that we make the routine plays," Obomanu says. "When the chance for a big play comes, they want you to be aggressive and that is what I tried to do on that play."
Inconsistency in the passing game was a major reason that Tuberville brought Borges to Auburn to add spark to the overall offensive attack. Obomanu says he and his offensive teammates like what they have seen so far from Borges and his modified version of the West Coast Offense.
"When you get a new offensive coordinator it is always questionable whether or not his offense will fit you or what kind of coach he is," Obomanu says. "To me he and all of the assistant coaches did a good job of installing the offense. He seems like a down-to-earth guy. He talks and plays and laughs with all of the players, but at the same time he knows how to get serious, too.
"The main thing I believe an offensive coordinator has to do is make the players feel confident in the system," Obomanu adds. "Right now we all feel confident in the system and it showed in the way we practiced in the spring."
Ben Obomanu makes a catch during Auburn's A-Day game.
Prior to spring practice, Borges said that he wanted to see the Tigers become more effective throwing deep pass routes. That was a theme of spring drills with quarterbacks Jason Campbell, Cox and Kelcy Luke getting plenty of opportunities to throw long passes.
"This year we are taking more shots down the field," Obomanu says. "One of the things Coach Borges wants to do is be more balanced. It is kind of evident by the way he calls the plays and runs the scrimmages. It is a lot different for the receivers. When I run routes, I have to always keep my eyes open and always be aware because he has given Jason a lot more options in the passing game. Everybody is a possible receiver when we call a pass play, which is a big difference from last year."
Obomanu and the other receivers had a lot of success catching passes when the Tigers lined up in their "bunch" formation, a variation of a double-wing set. "I know our defense gets confused with it because you can run so many things out of it," Obomanu notes. "You can have five receivers in the game and still run the ball. You can have four receivers in the game and everybody runs a go route. This offense is hard to defend knowing we can spread you out in so many ways. It is kind of hard to learn at first, but once you get it down it is going to be very effective."
For wideouts with speed like Obomanu, the new offensive system should be exciting. "Receivers all dream of getting the deep ball and making the big play one on one in a big game," he says. "I think he is going to give us opportunities to do that. One of the things that we wanted to do this spring was to give him the confidence that he can call those long pass plays. If we continue to bond together and get our confidence up, we should have some big plays this year."
Borges also believes in making the wide receivers a significant part of the running game. In addition to their blocking or decoy roles, look for the receivers to carry the football on reverses. "The receivers played various positions in high school from running back, to quarterback to defensive back," Obomanu notes. "One of the things that Coach Borges has seen is that all of the receivers have talent and the reverses give us a chance to showcase our talent of running after the catch. I think we will help out the running game, too. We all like it a lot."
Normally, the defense is ahead of the offense in Auburn spring practices, but that was not the case this year. The offense won the majority of the battles and that has players like Obomanu excited about seeing how the offense progresses this season.