AU Spring Football Preview: Part Eight

Continuing our preview of spring football practice, Coach Greg Knox takes a look at the outside wide receiver positions.

Auburn, Ala.--With a new offense comes new responsibilities for some players on the Auburn team football team as well as the coaching staff. The biggest change comes at the wide receiver position where Greg Knox tweaks his duties to work with the outside receivers while the inside receivers join with the tight ends.

"It's a little bit different, but really it works out well," Knox says. "Steve Ensminger is going to handle the tight ends and the inside slot guy and I'll handle the two outside guys. It really works out well with the things we're doing in this system. It helps to have two receiver coaches.

"I'm excited about having the chance to really focus on two guys," Knox says. "Steve and I will work together on a lot of the drills and techniques we'll be doing. I'll still be working with the H's (slot receivers) a little bit also."

Good news for Knox and new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin is the return of senior Rodgeriqus Smith at the wide receiver position. A former walk-on turned very productive receiver for the Tigers, Smith had a solid 2007 as Auburn's go-to guy. In 13 games last season Smith caught 52 passes for 705 yards and five touchdowns. He became just the second player at Auburn in the last eight seasons, joining Courtney Taylor who did it twice, to lead the Tigers with more than 700 yards in one season.

"Having Rod Smith back is really big for us," Knox says. "He's an experienced guy. He's a mentally tough kid. He's a competitor. He's a playmaker. Having him back is a big plus for us especially going into his senior season after having a lot of success last year.

"I was really pleased with his production," Knox says. "In this system I think he's going to have opportunities to have even more production. Having him back and him being in big time battles is big."

Montez Billings and Rod Smith celebrate a TD against LSU.

Joining Smith as a returning starter is junior Montez Billings. Injured to start the 2007 season, Billings came back to have a strong finish that included a big game against Florida. For the year he caught 28 passes for 311 yards and one touchdown. Knox says he feels like Billings came into his own last year and he's looking for big things out of the speedster from Pelham.

"Montez Billings kind of got his feet wet last year," Knox says. "He really came up with some big catches for us. Having him back is exciting. I'm really looking forward to seeing him in this offense. I'm hoping he can step up and make some big plays for us."

Robert Dunn gets guidance from Tony Franklin during bowl practices.

A new face on the outside will be senior Robert Dunn. Mostly a slot guy his first three years with the Tigers, Dunn moved outside some for the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson and Knox says that's something they'll look at more this spring. As a junior Dunn made 19 grabs for 211 yards and two touchdowns.

"Robert Dunn is going to be playing a little more outside than inside this year for us," Knox says. "It will be a change and an adjustment for him. We're thinking of ways that he can help us and ways to get him the football. He's an exciting player that can make things happen with the ball in his hands."

James Swinton has exceptional speed and could find a home in the new offense.

The wildcard of the bunch in Franklin's spread attack could very well be speedy senior James Swinton. Expected to be a bigger part of things in 2007, Swinton had just one catch for 16 yards early in the season. After that he became nonexistent for the Tigers, but Knox says he's looking for one final push from the Tucker, Ga., Native.

"James Swinton is a kid who going into his senior year hasn't done a lot," Knox says. "Hopefully with this new offense and the change the light will come on and he'll be able to excel and make some plays for us in this offense. We would like to see James come on and be a good player for us because he has a lot of tools and a lot of ability. We're just waiting for that light to come on and for him to step up and be a playmaker."

A player to watch for in spring practice will be redshirt freshman Quindarius Carr. A speedy receiver and a player who has matured physically since arriving on the Auburn campus last summer, Carr made a move for playing time last season, but the redshirt was kept on. Knox says now he'll have his chance to show what he can do beginning on Sunday.

"Quindarius Carr is the new kid on the block," Knox says. "We're really excited about him. He's got a lot of potential. This spring will be like getting his feet wet. He'll get in there and get a lot of reps. We're just waiting to kind of see his development."

Quindarius Carr works against Patrick Lee in a practice last fall.

With 15 practice dates in the spring beginning with Sunday's 3:15 p.m. spring opener workout on the practice fields, the Tigers are looking to work on polishing the offense they learned in just nine days in December getting ready to face Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Knox says because of the quick installation for the bowl game much of the spring will be spent trying to perfect what they already know and get ready for the 2008 season.

"The big thing that we're looking for and that Coach Franklin wants to see is the guys concentrating on the details of the offense," Knox says. "There are not going to be a lot of new plays from bowl practice, but they are going to be in more detail. All the little things we've got to learn and do better.

"In the bowl game we basically learned the plays and went out and executed them," the receivers caoch says. "We want to learn more of the details of the plays because that will help us execute a lot better. We'll be a lot more productive. That's what we're doing this spring is focusing on the details and learning the little things."

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