2004 Football Position Preview: Wide Receivers

<b>Editor's Note: This is the eighth in a series of position previews of the 2004 Auburn football season.</b>

Auburn, Ala.–-The 2003 season was one to forget for the Auburn offense. That was particularly the case forthe wide receiver position with the exception of senior Jeris McIntyre and freshman Courtney Taylor.

While McIntyre, the Tampa, Fla. native, was on the way to a career season, the rest of the group had what had to be considered subpar years as the Tigers finished the year 8-5.

Expected to have break-out seasons in their second years, Ben Obomanu, Anthony Mix and Devin Aromashodu all had troubles catching the ball and in Mix's case he had problems staying healthy. The trio combined for just 46 catches for 620 yards and four touchdowns. By himself McIntyre had 41 catches for 621 yards and three scores. Those numbers stand out when looking at the Auburn passing game heading into a new season.

The new season has a new direction with Coach Al Borges on the Auburn staff as offensive coordinator. Coming to the Plains in the spring, he installed parts of his version of the West Coast Offense and it began to show life immediately. That was especially true in the passing game in which Jason Campbell adapted quickly to the new offense and got the ball in the hands of his wide receivers to make plays. Position Coach Greg Knox tells Inside The Auburn Tigers that he felt good coming out of spring and is looking for bigger and better things from his group this season.

"Going through the spring I thought they all did a good job of picking up the new things we were doing," Knox says. "It's good to have a group like this coming back. They are starting to really gain experience, which is one of the big things. Devin and Ben and Anthony are all going into their junior years with Silas Daniels being the only senior of the group and Courtney is coming along. It's been a good group that is gaining experience as we go. Hopefully, this year they'll make a lot more plays and be a lot more productive.

"We saw flashes in the spring and there is always a big jump from the end of spring and the beginning of the fall," Knox adds. "I'm hoping that I'll see a little bit more maturity out of these guys and a little sense of urgency to learn more and be productive."

Ben Obomanu scores last season.

Obomanu's tough season has been well documented. Despite several big catches against both Ole Miss and Alabama, games in which he totaled 214 of his 373 yards on the season, Obomanu is most remembered for his drops in each. Few players have ever endured a tougher post-game press conference than Obomanu did after his drop in the closing seconds of the Ole Miss game cost Auburn a victory that knocked AU out of the SEC West race. Despite that he kept his chin up and came out of the experience a stronger player and person. This spring he won the team's Top Grade Point Average award and caught three passes for 51 yards in the A-Day game. He appears poised to have his best season.

While Mix's lack of production can be traced back to injuries, Aromashodu's decline is harder to explain. As a freshman he was solid, catching 18 passes for 304 yards and one touchdown. A tough start to fall practice last season signaled the beginning of something bad as he never regained the confidence he showed as a true freshman. Knox says that's something that Aromashodu has to find this fall through hard work and repetition.

"The name of the game is confidence," Knox says. "That's what he lacked in the fall. That's what he re-accomplished by gathering that in the spring. If he's confident in himself and his ability then he'll be a productive player. For any receiver at any position, the name of the game is confidence. If you're confident in your ability then you're going to be productive."

Courtney Taylor was a leader of the receiver group in spring drills.

While his peers faltered trying to make plays on the perimeter, Taylor had a solid first season at wide receiver after a redshirt year in 2002. The former high school quarterback caught 34 passes for 379 yards, good enough for second on the team behind McIntyre. His biggest game came against Alabama when he had seven catches for 83 yards. Knox says that Taylor improves every time he steps on the field.

"I think it was the fact that he sat out the first year and learned," Knox says. "He's still learning the position. There is something new for him everyday because he hasn't done it all his life like the other guys. Everything he does is something new, something different and something he's learned. He just gets better everyday."

A sleeper in the passing game this fall could be sophomore Lee Guess. A standout at Hewitt-Trussville High as the top target for Auburn back-up quarterback Brandon Cox, Guess has been steadily improving as a reserve in his two seasons on the Plains. Knox says that Guess has a chance to help the passing game this fall as an inside receiver in the new offense.

"Lee is a guy who took a step forward this spring," Knox says. "He got better, but he still has a lot of little things he needs to work on to improve himself. He didn't catch the ball as well as we would have liked throughout the whole spring, but he showed flashes. He's a guy we'll watch for the fall."

Possible help could also come from true freshman James Swinton from Tucker, Ga. A speedster who has worked hard on his hands, Swinton could be headed for a redshirt year, but Knox says the coaches will take a long look at him in fall practice to make sure he's not needed.

"We're just going to see how he develops," Knox says. "We'll look at him through the fall camp and watch him to see how quickly he picks up the offense. If he's mature enough and he picked up the offense well and he's performing then he'll have an opportunity to play. I don't mind playing a freshman."

Silas Daniels is Auburn's lone senior receiver in 2004.

As Auburn prepares for the 2004 season with a new offense Knox says that it's an exciting time to be a coach because of all the possible performers that could step up this season. Helped by a strong running game, Borges' new offense could be just what the doctor ordered for the Tigers as they try to knock off LSU in the SEC West.

"It's kind of always exciting," Knox said. "Anytime you have guys like Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown in the backfield then you're going to have to make some plays on the perimeter to keep the defense honest. Hopefully, these guys can come up with some big plays and make the defense play honest. Then we'll be able to move the football on the ground as well as in the air."

Jamoga Ramsey, a 5-10, 162 sophomore, and Maurice Anderson, a 6-3, 202 redshirt feshman, are a pair of walk-ons who could see playing time.

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