Auburn, Ala.--Saturday was a day of mixed results for Auburn's wide receivers. On one hand junior Rodgeriqus Smith had a big game against New Mexico State with three catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns. On the other hand, Coach Greg Knox says his receivers dropped three passes to continue a trend established in the first three games by his group. Knox says all you can do is work hard and try to find out why it happened.
"You look for the reasons why," Knox says. "Was it a lack of concentration? Was it trying to turn up the field too fast before he completed the catch? That was the case on one of them. We were definitely trying to run before we ever had it. That was just one of the things we talked about is finishing the play before we ever tried to run with it."
Through four games of the 2007 season, Smith has been the exception rather than the rule for Auburn's receivers. He has 11 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns. The rest of Auburn's receivers have combined for just 22 catches and 199 yards with no touchdowns. To put it into perspective, Auburn's defensive line has as many touchdowns as the wide receivers this season.
Looking for more at the position, Knox says they're continuing to work freshmen Tim Hawthorne and Chris Slaughter at the position every day in practice. Last week Hawthorne got his first catch as a Tiger, good for four yards. Knox says the Homewood native is showing improvement but needs to be more consistent on a daily basis.
"He's coming along," Knox says. "Tim is getting better. He's taking baby steps but I'm seeing improvement out of him every day. He just has to keep working. He knows his playing time is determined on his practice effort this week. If he wants to play more then he's got put his best foot forward. He's got to give us more."
As for Slaughter it comes down to simply knowing enough offense to get the job done. Arriving on campus late after getting held up by the NCAA Clearinghouse, Slaughter has worked hard to get up to speed in Auburn's offense but Knox says he's still got a ways to go to become an every down threat.
"He's coming along okay," Knox says. "He's getting better. He probably knows it all but I don't know if he can execute it all right now. We're going to find out this week and see what he can execute. As we put the gameplan in hopefully he'll get better and better at it. He's still making some mental busts in every game. We can't put him out there if he's going to make mistakes. He's got to be able to complete the play and execute."
While he has struggled to get up to speed, Knox says it doesn't mean Slaughter won't be a part of Auburn's offensive plans this week. He notes much like Hawthorne it all depends on what he shows them in the days leading up to the trip to Florida to face the Gators in The Swamp.
"He could if he works hard this week in practice," Knox says. "He knows it's on his shoulders. His playing time is determined by how hard he works. If he wants to play then he's got to put his best foot forward."