Coates Looking For Improved Passing Game

Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates discusses the passing game, how the bye week helped, making plays at wide receiver, and more.

Auburn, Ala.—With the absence of sophomore receiver Quan Bray for this weekend's game against the Arkansas Razorbacks because of a suspension, the Auburn Tigers will need at least one more receiver to step up and take the pressure off Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen in the passing game.

While Trovon Reed and even true freshman Ricardo Louis may get the opportunity to do just that out of the inside receiver position, the player that may be the biggest threat to make a difference is redshirt freshman Sammie Coates. Close to making several big plays already this season, Coates is a player that Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler is looking to for more and that begins on Saturday.

With his two catches for 34 yards this season, including a 33-yard touchdown catch on a Hail Mary pass in the ULM game, Coates is the second on the team in catches for a wide receiver heading into this Saturday's game with Bray not available. Trovon Reed and Travante Stallworth have each caught one pass for the Tigers this season. That's the extent of the help that has come from the rest of the receivers and Coates said that has to change right now.

"We need to make bigger plays," Coates said. "That's all they say. We're one or two plays away from being 4-0. It's true. Wide receivers haven't been making really big plays lately and I think we need to step that up.

"I feel like we need to focus on the little things like looking the ball in and turning our head and keeping our eye on the ball for the last six inches," he added. "It's executing plays, finishing plays, and making big catches. Last week against LSU, I should have caught that ball. That's a big play and could have been a big turnaround in the game."

The play Coates is talking about came early in the 12-10 loss to LSU. On second down quarterback Kiehl Frazier delivered a perfect throw down the LSU sideline to a streaking Coates. Despite some contact he had both hands on the ball before it slipped through his fingers. He said that one was tough to live with after the game.

"It hurt me pretty bad," Coates said. "I tried not to think about it during the game in case I go back in and they come back to me. I didn't want to let that stop me from making another catch. It would have been a big catch. It would have been a big turnaround in the game. It did make me feel like it's the reason we lost the game even though I know that's not true."

The receivers haven't been the only problem with the passing game however as Frazier admitted during the bye week that he's got to do a better job of finding secondary receivers and also delivering the ball in a timely fashion. Coates said that's something they've worked hard on this week is to build more chemistry in the passing game.

"We've been trying to do some after-practice work throwing with Kiehl and getting him to be on point with us," Coates said. "There are so many different wide receivers with different speeds and how we run our routes."

Facing an Arkansas team that has allowed over 1,700 yards passing this season in five games and was torched for over 400 yards last week by Texas A&M, this could be just the thing the Auburn passing game needs to get untracked. Coates said right now the first order of business is to get a win and let everything else handle itself.

"I think it's real important for us to get a win this Saturday because we're so close," Coates said. "We've been working so hard and getting real physical. It would be a real good thing to beat Arkansas and help our confidence more.

"Playing close to LSU is what we wanted but it would have been better to get the win," he added. "We had so many opportunities to win the game. We're tired of being so close to winning. We just want to go ahead and start winning like we're supposed to be."

Kickoff for Saturday's game is set for 11 a.m. central time and can be seen nationally on ESPN2.

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