If you're a fan of points, then this year's A-Day was your thing. It was a far cry from some A-Days in the past where we've seen the ball move back-and-forth but a whole lot Daniel Carlson field goals.
Jarrett Stidham was everything we hoped he'd be. Malik Willis proved why he's been receiving a lot of hype. We wanted to see receivers step up and Nate Craig-Myers definitely showed why he was once the #1 WR recruit in the nation. Will Hastings looked very good in the speedy slot receiver role. There are weapons all around for an Auburn offense that looks to open things up a bit more in 2017 with Chip Lindsey as the new offensive coordinator.
In terms of stats, Jarrett Stidham finished the day 16-20 for 267 yards. He had as least 3 passes that were 30+ yards and fit a number of them into very tight windows. One of those incomplete passes was a perfectly thrown wheel route that would have added another 30-40 yards to his total if Kam Martin hadn't let it slip through his fingers. Malik Willis finished 11-18 for 157 yards. He had a few very impressive throws in his time. Woody Barrett actually didn't see much time on the field at all, which is discouraging for his future. Willis got the majority of snaps in the 2nd half while Barrett really only saw 2-3 drives in the first half.
Nate Craig-Myers was the leading receiver for the Tigers this afternoon, catching five passes for 154 yards. He had a few spectacular grabs, too. Will Hastings was right behind him with 7 catches for 75 yards. We did see wheel routes and passes to tight ends, which was a welcome sight. We also saw our first glimpse at Marquis McClain, the only WR from the stellar 2016 class who redshirted. He caught a 69* yard pass from Devin Adams in traffic and took it to the house showing off his hands and his speed. He could definitely make a lot of noise for the Tigers this year.
We need wide receivers to step up. Hopefully, Kyle Davis will be back in the fall and the Tigers will have a ton of weapons to work with. It's nice to see what Nate Craig-Myers, Will Hastings, Marquis McClain, Darius Slayton, and Ryan Davis were able to show today, though. Those are pretty good weapons by themselves. Adding a focused Kyle Davis to the bunch and Auburn's passing game could be absolutely deadly in 2017.
Kerryon Johnson led the team in rushing with 7 carries for 47 yards. He left mid-second quarter with a high ankle sprain, though. In the race for the 3rd running back, it's hard to guess between Malik Miller and Kam Martin, but right now I'd give the edge to Miller. Kamryn Pettway did not play today because they don't need to see what he can do. They already know what the Freight Train is capable of.
The way the teams scored isn't all that important, but we'll put the highlights up when the official site posts them. There will be plenty of them, that's for sure.
On the defensive side of the ball, the first team defensive line stifled any rushing by the 2nd team offense. They were constantly getting pressure on the QBs (which makes Willis' efforts that much more impressive) and shutting plays down. Paul James III earned the defensive MVP nod for A-Day today, and it was well-earned as he made a number of great plays and showed that he could be an excellent candidate to replace Carl Lawson as the rusher this fall now that he's healthy.
Sadly, I can't really offer too much other analysis on the defense, as I was focused too much on how the quarterbacks and offense were performing. Stidham was tearing through the 2nd team defense, but the 1st team defense had a strong enough day that I don't think Tiger fans should be too worried about the 2017 defense.
For Special Teams, Daniel Carlson was #LEGATRON. He went 5-for-5 with one field goal of 55 yards. When the game was over, the team crowded around him as he kicked one from 60. The ball went through the uprights and looked like it had enough height to clear from 60.
I was worried about Carlson handling punting duties, as it didn't bode well for Ian Shannon and we really don't want Carlson handling all kicking duties again this year. Gus Malzahn indicated after the game that there was a death in Ian Shannon's family and that's why he wasn't on the field kicking in this one.
It's hard not to get overly excited about this game, even though I should know better. As I pointed out in the Stidham article, though, The reasons for excitement are for fundamental things like decision making, throwing ability, catching ability, etc. It's because I see a ton of potential in this team to be great if they stay healthy. We saw what they were capable of last year in the stretch of the 6-game winning streak. Now imagine them with upgrades at WR due to experience and at QB.
We're a long way from September 2nd and that first game against Georgia Southern. Right now, though, it's hard not to think this could be a very good Auburn Football team that takes the field that opening weekend.