2006 Spring Football Preview: Wide Receivers

Editor's Note: This is the eighth in a series of articles previewing Auburn's spring football practices that begin on Feb. 28.

Auburn, Ala.--Losing three 1,000 yard receivers in Ben Obomanu, Devin Aromashodu and Anthony Mix, Coach Greg Knox and the Auburn Tigers will get to work beginning Feb. 28 trying to replace the talent and experience the trio brought to the offense.

Knox says that there's no way to describe what all three meant to the program in their time here and the program will have a hard time replacing them without some hard work.

"It's going to be a major challenge this spring for me and the group of guys that are with me right now," Knox tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "We've both got our work cut out for us. We've got to buckle down in the spring and get some production done."

One positive for Knox and company is the return of Courtney Taylor for his senior season. With 99 career catches for 1,394 yards and seven touchdowns, Taylor is already one of the most productive receivers in Auburn history. Knox says that beginning with this spring he wants Taylor to become a complete player on and off the field.

"Having him back helps tremendously because we're counting on Courtney to step up and take over the leadership role that Ben, Devin and Anthony had while they were here," Knox says. "Losing three guys like that is a major loss. More than anything you lose experience. That was the big thing we lost out of those three guys.

"This spring will be a big test to develop some experience with our guys and try to get them some playing time out there on the field where they can grow and learn about the game. Having Courtney around will help tremendously."

Prechae Rodriguez has the ability to be a big-play threat for the Tigers.

A player who came on strong last season in his first at Auburn, junior college transfer Prechae Rodriguez showed flashes of brilliance last season in a limited role in the offense. With 13 receptions for 240 yards and one touchdown, the junior-to-be is the favorite going into the spring to be a starter opposite Taylor. Knox says that he's got everything he needs to be a very good player, but needs to keep developing his game.

"He got some playing time and showed some signs of what we think he can be," Knox says. "He's a guy that is back and is having a good winter workout right now. He's doing well and working hard. Hopefully things will pick up for him this spring. He's a guy that came along late in the year and made some plays. He's a guy that we have high expectations for this spring."

Lee Guess is the most experienced receiver behind Taylor for the Tigers.

Rounding out the players with experience are four players that have a combined 16 receptions between them heading into the 2006 season. Lee Guess, Robert Dunn, James Swinton and Rodgeriqus Smith are all familiar with Auburn's offense and Knox says that more action this spring should help them improve their games because they're going to have plenty of chances to show what they can do in scrimmage situations.

"Lee has some playing time, Robert Dunn has a little playing time, James Swinton has a little playing time, (Rodgerqus) Rod Smith has a little playing time," Knox says. "Those are guys that this spring we'll give a good look to. Losing three seniors, everybody is going to get their opportunity.

"One thing I've been harping to these guys is that they've got to be ready when their opportunity presents itself. All of those guys know that they're going to be given opportunities this spring and it's a big time for them to step up and show that they can get the job done."

Rodgeriqus Smith showed the ability last fall to make plays when given the opportunity.

Thrown into the mix this spring will also be two players redshirted last season that have a chance to step in right away and play. Highly recruited out of Pelham High, athletic Montez Billings is a player who has everything going for him and could be the big mover in the spring if he can be physical enough. The same is true of Ulysses Alexander, who is a big receiver who has the skills to be a very productive receiver in college.

"Montez Billings and Ulysses Alexander were brought in for this situation," Knox says. "We knew we would be losing those three guys and Ulysses and Montez came in and were both redshirted. It's a grand opportunity for them. They got a chance to watch those older guys and learn from them. Now it's time to fill their shoes.

"I have an idea of what they can do, but I have to get them out there more and get them into the competition part of practice," he adds. "They need to be out there on their own to make some mistakes and learn from their mistakes. You just have to get them out there and work with them."

Alexander is the tallest of Auburn's receivers and could be a weapon down the road.

With three starters gone the receiving corps as a whole must put in a lot of hard work in just 15 practice days to get ready for the 2006 season. Because of that Knox says that the first goal is to become better learners and technicians before they even get on the field in practice situations. With that, he says they'll get where they need to as players.

"One of the things we want to accomplish is to become a smarter group of players," Knox says. "Again we lost a lot of experience and the only true experience guy we have coming back is Courtney Taylor. One of our areas of emphasis this spring is to become smarter. Another one of the things we're going to focus on is becoming a smarter route runner.

"We also want to come prepared every day and concentrate more. The smarter we are, the better we're going to be. We spend a lot of time in the classroom and I call the field ‘the lab.' We're going to spend our time in the classroom and then go out to the lab and try to become better players."


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