It turns out this group had talent all along and it only took a combination of coaching and the right schemes to take advantage if it. Except for Tim Hawthorne, the 2009 receiving corps returns for 2010 with the addition of some talented players from the 2010 signing class.
The Auburn Tigers will have 12 scholarship receivers, plus senior walk-on Jay Wisner, who played a great deal last year, to work with this season. In terms of overall talent this might not be the best group of receivers in school history, but it could be one of the most productive.
Comparing Auburn teams from the past 20 years, the 2009 group of receivers finished No. 4 with an average of 4.38 impact plays per game and that doesn't include the impact plays generated by Mario Fannin, who was often split out as a receiver.
In terms of the ratio of impact plays to completions, the 2009 receivers averaged an impact play every 3.8 completions, No.5 over the past 20 seasons.
Last season Auburn's receivers totaled 57 impact plays of 15 yards or more, the fourth most over the past 20 years. This included 16 plays of 30 yards or more, the second most by a group of Auburn receivers over the past 20 years.
Auburn featured nine different receivers (excluding Fannin) who generated an impact play in 2009, the most by any group of receivers in the last 20 seasons. Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery were the primary playmakers in 2009, but the coaching staff is expecting help from a group of younger players this fall.
Darvin Adams is shown with his Outback Bowl Most Valuable Player Trophy.
Adams and Zachery have combined for 49 game appearances, which includes 44 plays of 15 yards or more. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is searching for a third receiver to step up in 2010 and that player will likely come from the trio of DeAngelo Benton, Emory Blake and Quindarius Carr. They have combined for 48 game appearances and 23 receptions, which includes seven impact plays.
The 23 receptions don't seem like many, but don't forget Adams' and Zachery's career numbers entering the 2009 season. They had a combined five receptions, but racked up 86 in 2009 with the opportunity to play in Matland offense.
Quindarius Carr made his first college touchdown catch in Auburn's bowl victory over Northwestern on New Year's Day.
Auburn is likely to obtain plenty of production from Adams, Zachery, Benton, Blake and Carr, but Kodi Burns, Travated Stallworth and Jay Wisner should make their impacts in a supporting role. Burns has become a team leader as a senior and Stallworth was becoming a rising star before he suffered a knee injury late in the 2009 season. Wisner might be a walk-on, but he saw plenty of action and even started last season. This leaves Derek Winter and Phillip Pierre-Louis rounding out the returning corps of receivers.
Newcomer Troyon Reed will certainly be a player to watch for in 2010. Reed may be gifted enough to become a star on either side of the football, but will likely play on offense as a player who should contribute as a receiver and a runner. Freshmen Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens are talented, too.
Receivers coach Trooper Taylor did a terrific job preparing this players for the 2009 season, but he was far from being satisfied when it came to the entire group. In addition to the performances of Adams and Zachery, Coach Taylor wanted a third receiver to step up last season as a go-to guy, but it didn't transpire.
One of the reasons why the 2009 group was productive was the manner in which Malzahn utilized the receivers. They were all expected to catch and block, but some were called on to run the football, expanding their role in the offense.
With Cameron Newton at quarterback this year, Auburn's receivers will likely have more opportunities to make big plays as he possesses a stronger arm than Chris Todd did last season and has the athletic ability to adlib.
With a full year under their belts the Auburn receivers know what is expected of them on and off the field as they prepare for the opener vs. Arkansas State. Players like Adams and Zachery are a testament to what hard work and the opportunity to play can achieve.
Coach Malzahn has a track record of putting younger players on the field as long as they can produce so there are no excuses for any Auburn receiver not to give it his all for the opportunity to play. With the returning personnel from 2009, the 2010 offense has the potential of being one of the best in the country, but it will take more than two receivers stepping up to the challenge.