2014 Key Returnees:
Sammie Coates, Quan Bray, Ricardo Louis, Melvin Ray, CJ Uzomah, Brandon Fulse, Marcus Davis, Tony Stevens, Jaylon Denson (tentatively)
D'haquille Williams, Stanton Truitt, Myron Burton, Chris Laye
Of the returning group, Stevens didn't see too much action and Jaylon Denson also still struggled with returning from injury. In the newcomers, the only one to see any real action was, of course, Duke Williams. Stanton Truitt was in on 1-2 plays before injuring his shoulder. Myron Burton and Chris Laye redshirted.
So how did the receivers perform? Pretty danged well. In the six years available on cfbstats.com, the 2,984 total receiving yards were the most by any Auburn team other than the 2010 BCS Championship squad. How much more did the 2010 throw for? They threw for a Sammie Coates more. Yep. 18 yards. 3,002 was the 2010 total. This is a stat I'll come back to when reviewing the QBs, believe me.
Reviewing the number of receptions per passing attempts is a two-way street with the QBs, as well. What I was really hoping to find (but couldn't) were the exact number of times each receiver was targeted. I'm sure the information is out there, somewhere, but that really would have let me pinpoint the performance of specific receivers in a much clearer fashion.
Sammie Coates' numbers dropped in 2014, but that is because Duke Williams arrived. Even then, they didn't drop by much. Sammie Coates had 902 yards receiving in 2013 compared to 741 in 2014. Duke Williams recorded 730 yards receiving, but didn't play in every game. Duke and Sammie were everything we hoped, really. Sammie still had some frustrating drops, but his torching of the Bama secondary (even though we lost) in the 2014 Iron Bowl was beautiful. Duke made spectacular catches at the most opportune times. They were a terrific duo to have.
If there's one receiver who was previously on the roster you can point to who had a break-out year, it's Quan Bray. Bray's total receiving numbers beginning in his 2011 freshman campaign were 93, 94, and 195. He didn't score his first career touchdown pass until the 2013 season, where he snagged 3. In 2014 he had 471 yards receiving and 4 receiving touchdowns. Duke and Sammie were the stars we expected them to be. Quan Bray became the receiver we always hoped he would be. I would name him my personal favorite of the 2014 receiving corps just because it was so nice to see him become what we knew he could all along.
For the Tight-ends, Brandon Fulse caught his first and only touchdown of his Auburn career, and mainly played H-back. He did a respectable job filling a very tough role. CJ Uzomah had his average season really in terms of catches and touchdowns. I really wish I could see his catch/target ratio. I suspect CJ may be very underrated in terms of just how effective a pass catcher he was. He snagged most anything thrown his way.
He will also forever have a place in my heart for this.
Sammie is gone, but Duke remains. I am really shocked that he returned, but I am extremely happy that he did! I really thought his injury in the Texas A&M game would lead to him not risking another injury.
With Duke back, we know we have the ridiculously awesome possession receiver that we can count on to grab anything thrown his way. What is unknown is who is going to step up to be the deep threat. Smart money right now is on Ricardo Louis or Tony Stevens. Louis has shown that ability to get behind the defense in the Outback Bowl on what I still count as perhaps the most perfect pass Nick Marshall threw in his career. Tony Stevens excites people because he's not only fast, but tall. At 6'4, Stevens will have another advantage in going up for the deep balls.
Quan Bray's 2014 performance makes him a big loss to the receiving corps, but in large part Auburn is returning a lot of receivers and will be bringing in some good ones, as well. Marcus Davis is poised to have a great year. Melvin Ray and Jeremy Johnson have a special connection from their practice time. I think Melvin will be used a lot more. Stanton Truitt is supposed to have blazing speed. And this is all before we get to the incoming freshmen who will arrive on campus this summer.
Auburn is in pretty good shape for wide receivers going into 2015. There are question marks, but the talent is definitely there to step up.
Tight-end is a big question mark, though. A big one. Auburn only has one true scholarship tight-end on the roster at the moment. This is partially due to natural attrition, and partially due to tragedy. Chris Laye will be called upon in a big way at the TE spot, and he's never played a college game, yet. He'll be joined by true freshman Jalen Harris in the fall. Chandler Cox - an H-back - can also catch the football, and when it comes to any two tight-end sets (which Auburn rarely uses), it will likely be with Cox or Pettway on the opposite side of Laye.
It's going to be an interesting year, that's for sure.
Next up: Running Backs