Will Hastings' arrival at Auburn wasn't greeted with the fanfare of his fellow wide receivers. That's because he wasn't even a wide receiver. He wasn't even a part of the official 2015 signing class.
No, Will Hastings walked on as a kicker. He's still listed that way on the official site's roster where his bio lists him as K/WR. According to that bio, he appeared in two games and is even credited with kickoff in the LSU game. That kickoff was the one following Jeremy Johnson's 65-yard touchdown run according to the ESPN.com play-by-play.
How is a 5'10, 172 lbs sophomore who was listed as a kicker in 2015 now a wide receiver?
The answer is in the above-linked biography. In his senior season of high school at Pulaski Academy in Arkansas, Hastings became just the second person in Arkansas high school football history to record 2,000+ receiving yards. He helped his team to the 2014 state title that year (recording 234 yards receiving in the title game) and earned All-American honors from MaxPreps.com.
His 247Sports recruiting profile shows him as a composite 2*. He was unranked by 247Sports and shows no offers, there. The Rivals recruiting profile shows interest from two Sun Belt schools and two FCS schools. It's not because he came from a smaller school, either. Pulaski Academy plays at the 5A level of Arkansas football. One of their notable alumni is Mackey Award winner Hunter Henry, who played Tight End at Arkansas.Whatever the reasons, he decided to pass up the FBS schools (I have no idea if he had "commitable offers" from the Sun Belt teams) and take a walk-on offer on the Plains.
He walked on at Auburn in August of 2015 in the role of kicker rather than wide receiver, and no one really noticed.
His Hudl highlights are primarily at wide receiver. His profile there lists him with a 4.45 40 yard dash time, which is fairly impressive if accurate. His 34 inch vertical isn't eye-opening, but it's up there with most wide receivers in recent NFL combines. His highlight video is pretty impressive, too.
I like the way he extends the ball when he knows he's short of the marker. He extends his arms to try to make catches at the edge of his range. He's pretty shifty and has good vision for holes. I'm no recruiting expert, but I'm curious why he didn't garner more interest and why he ultimately chose to walk on at Auburn as a kicker rather than go to another school as a wide receiver.
He's got some impressive trick moves, too.
Whatever his reasons, it's looking now like things may be working out pretty well for him. When Auburn released its depth chart earlier today, Hastings was listed on the 2-deep behind Stanton Truitt in one of the slot receiver roles. From walk-on kicker to the #2 spot at a wide receiver position in one season. That's an amazing transition.
If you're a member of various Auburn message boards or talked to anyone present at Auburn's one "open" scrimmage (for donors, I believe), then Hastings name has come up. He's quick. He's impressed coaches. He's made some plays. I didn't expect that to be enough to get him a spot on the 2-deep, but here we are.
One thing Auburn desparetely needs at the wide receiver position this year are consistent contributors. I hope Hastings' name popping up here is because he's made a surprising impact rather than there being no movement by the other wide receivers. Given the freshmen talent, I'm leaning more towards option one.
If he's able to step in and have a decent sized role in Auburn's offense and help the team to success on the field, my what a story it will be. I know I'll be rooting for him to make that story a reality.
War Eagle, Will!