Virtually the entire wideout corps returns from a young and talented group on the 2002 team. Position coach Greg Knox seems eager to get spring drills started. The Tigers are set to hit the practice field for the first time in 2003 on March 4th.
"The first thing about this spring training is we are looking at an offense that we have been in one fall and one spring so we are coming around on one full year in this offense," Knox notes. "We are looking to improve in the finer points--the little things of this offense. We are looking to become better at each individual thing we do."
A trio of true freshmen saw significant playing time for Knox last year. "Basically, we had a good year," Knox says of his receivers. The Tigers must replace 2002 senior Marcel Willis, but everybody else should be back in action. He was the leading receiver with 30 catches for 411 yards.
Ben Obomanu got one start as a freshman.
"We played the three freshmen with Anthony Mix, Ben Obomanu and Devin Aromashodu," Knox says. "I want to spend a lot of time with those guys again, focus on the little things to help them become more experienced receivers. We have got to spend a lot of time on technique and fundamentals this spring, not only with the freshmen, but with our veterans like McIntyre (Jeris McIntyre) and Silas Daniels. Even though they are the veterans, they have only been in this offense a year, too."
Aromashodu caught 16 passes for 286 yards and one touchdown. Obomanu caught 16 passes for 213 yards and three scores.
Courtney Taylor is making the transition from quarterback to wide receiver.
Two more freshmen to watch are a pair of redshirts--Courtney Taylor and Lee Guess. Both practiced in the fall on the scout team, but didn't play in games. Head coach Tommy Tuberville says that Taylor, who was also a basketball star at Carrollton, Ala., High, is one of the most exciting of the team's young players. "We want to make sure we try to get him involved this spring with what is going on," Knox says.
Knox says there is plenty of room for every receiver on the team to make significant improvement in the spring, even senior McIntyre. "Jeris, you know, is the veteran that has been playing for us for four seasons," Knox says. "Jeris is still working on his routes, trying to become a better route runner. The way Jeris can improve is off the field, by spending more time in the classroom, studying tape. That would help him make himself a better player." McIntyre caught 10 passes for 129 yards and one TD as a junior.
Jeris McIntyre is the team's most experienced receiver.
The second most experienced player this year is Daniels, who will be a junior after catching 12 passes for 162 yards in 2002. "If he is going to be a better ball player, he has got to get stronger in the weight room and I talked to him about that," Knox says. "I think, if he becomes stronger, he will become a more aggressive, more physical receiver. He is trying. He hurt his shoulder power cleaning so that will be a small setback. Hopefully, he will pick it back up."
One of the 2002 freshmen, Mix is expected to get most of his work at tight end this spring after catching 13 passes for 129 yards and one TD. The Tigers signed three players for that position who report in August, but without Mix they are down to one returning tight end--sophomore-to-be Cooper Wallace. Steven Ross, an offensive lineman, will also see action at tight end this spring.
In addition to Mix, Obomanu and Aromashodu, the other two true freshman wideouts who saw playing time last season, will get plenty of individual attention from Knox. "It is all going to be technique and fundamentals for those guys," the coach says. "We have got to really do a lot of work, technique and fundamental-wise, for Devin and Ben."
Knox is also eager to see how 2002 signee Taylor performs this spring after a redshirt season. "It is a big spring for him," Knox says. "He didn't play last year and I am sure he is looking forward to working his way in to the rotation. He is going to be given every opportunity to get in there. We are going to really focus on him this spring."
Knox says that Guess, another redshirt freshman wideout, will receive plenty of attention, too. "We are going to give him every opportunity to see what he can do."
Silas Daniels is a deep threat for the Tigers.
Adding depth will be Justin Fetsko, who walked on and won a scholarship for his receiving skills and work on special teams as the holder for field goals and extra points. "Fetsko is probably the best walk-on," Knox says. "He is just a great kid. He is a very polished receiver, smart, does everything right." Fetsko made a strong start as a freshman, but was set back by a serious knee injury that required surgery. He is running well again.
Another walk-on wideout, Andrew Letts, is making the move to defense and will get a look at safety.
Devin Aromashodu showed big-play potential last season.
Signing wide receivers was not a high priority area in the 2003 signee class. The Tigers added just one--speedster Bruce Edwards from Columbus, Miss., High, who will report to campus this summer.
Editor's Note: This is the seventh part of a series of articles previewing Auburn's spring football practice.