Darvin Adams was recently named to the watch list of the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver.
On New Year's Day, 2010 Auburn Wide Receiver Darvin Adams was selected as the MVP of the Outback Bowl. Adams led the team that day with 12 receptions and 142 yards in the Tigers' 38 - 35 victory over Northwestern. It was just another day at the office for Auburn's number one receiver. Yet before the season began no one foresaw Adams as a starter much less finishing the year with 10 touchdowns, 60 receptions, and nearly 1,000 receiving yards. It just goes to show that no one ever knows which players are going to have a breakout year.
Before 2009 Montez Billings and Tim Hawthorne along with newcomers DeAngelo Benton and Emory Blake were projected to be the starters. But after Billings left the team and Hawthorne graduated early (giving up his final year of eligibility) Adams and fellow teammate Terrell Zachary made a charge to the top of the depth chart.
From all accounts the two's rise to the top of the receiving corps had just as much to do with work ethic as with ability. Adams worked hard to gain the trust of not only the coaches but quarterback Chris Todd, often staying after practice to get more reps and practice running routes.
By the time the season began, both quarterback and receiver seemed to know where each other were at all the time. And it showed in the third game of the year when Todd and Adams connected for three touchdown's in the 41 - 30 win over West Virginia. That was the first time an Auburn receiver had done that since the 1989 season.
Darvin was recently named to the watch list for the 2010 Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver. The nomination is recognition for the outstanding year he had in 2009 as well as what is expected of him in 2010. It's recognition that is overdue. It was a travesty that he was left off the ALL SEC first and second teams last year. He finished the season first in the SEC in touchdowns by a receiver, third in receiving yards, and fourth in the league in catches. Trooper Taylor said "I thought he played well enough to be all conference."
Part of the reason for Adams success was due to defenses covering Terrell Zachary. Yet Terrell still scored five touchdowns and had 18.3 yards per catch average in 2009. Plus who could forget T-Zach's 67 yard reverse for a touchdown in the Iron Bowl or his 93 yard reception for a touchdown against Louisiana Tech; a play which set a record as the longest pass play in school history.
The Tigers are trying to develop depth this year, although receivers Coach Trooper Taylor has gone on record in the past as saying he prefers not to rotate a lot of receivers. Taylor believes it may breakup the rhythm that a quarterback and a receiver have going in a game. He said when a quarterback and a receiver have a bond then "It just happens. It just clicks. That's what the young guys have to understand."
However, there is a five package set that allows more receivers to be involved in the game. Even if there are five receivers on the field, will Malzahn have his new QB spread it around? Will Cam Newton bond with one receiver? If so, who might be that guy? Sullivan had Beasley, Burger had Tillman, White had Sanders, Campbell had Courtney Taylor and Todd had Adams. Who will be the guy that Newton builds a rapport and a bond with? Will it be Adams or will it be someone else?
Several players have received high praise from the coaches in the spring and summer practices, but the most buzz coming out of preseason practice has been over freshman Trovon Reed. It appears he has been wowing both players and coaches with unbelievable athletic skills. If the hype over Reed is accurate, he may push all of the receiving corps to be better.
One thing is certain - Auburn is loaded at wide receiver. I can't ever remember Auburn having this much talent at the receiver position. There are 16 players on the roster listed as wide receivers. At least 12 of those guys are capable of competing for a starting position at most other D1 schools. Taylor says, "We play the guys that make plays" and Adams and Zachary were the play makers in '09.
The ten receivers that could step up to be playmakers in 2010 and make a move for more playing time behind Adams and T-Zach are Kodi Burns, Emory Blake, DeAngelo Benton, Quindarious Carr, Phillip Pierre-Louis, Trovon Reed, Shaun Kitchens, Antonio Goodwin, Ralph Spry, Jr., and Jay Wisner. According to Taylor every one of those guys has the potential to have a good season.
One of the great things about college football is that you never know who is going to have a breakout year. That's also part of the allure of the pre season ... the hope, the hype, the predictions, and the debate are all intriguing. Darvin Adams and T-Zach proved last year though, that the only thing that can settle it for sure is when they actually strap it up and play; and September 4th we'll start to get our answers when Auburn straps it up against Arkansas State...
Even so come quickly September 4th.