After swirling rumors over the course of the afternoon, Gus Malzahn confirmed on Tiger Talk tonight that Nate Craig-Myers and his brother Jayvaughn Myers have left the team.
NCM’s time at Auburn has been one of the more frustrating, promising, and interesting tenures as an Auburn football player that we’ve seen recently. He was an early devotee to Gus Malzahn, committing late in his junior season of high school. Some thought that he might end up as the top prospect in his class, but he ended up rated as a four-star recruit. Still, he wavered a bit and finally fully committed to Auburn over North Carolina on National Signing Day in 2016. It was a big get. He was part of a receiver class that included Kyle Davis (also gone), Eli Stove, and Marquis McClain.
After only catching four passes for 70 yards in his freshman season, he blossomed more as the big middle of the field threat last year with 16 catches for 285 yards. His first touchdown of the year came against Missouri on a long bomb, but he was held fairly silent after that until the end of the year, when he caught touchdowns against Alabama and Georgia in back to back weekends.
This season, he only grabbed two passes in the opener against Washington for 39 yards (although one came on a righteous slant from Jarrett Stidham), and hadn’t been seen the past two games. Honestly, I’m not surprised he’s gone. Good for him. He’s too talented not to be a focal point of the offense. I’m not really sure if he and Stidham never really clicked, but he just wasn’t as much of a target as Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton were.
Now, if you add in the focus on Seth Williams, NCM’s role has been diminished even more. Williams has become a bonafide threat in the middle. He’s the same big-bodied type of kid, great hands, possession receiver. With him on the field, it’s hard to see NCM getting the same attention. I love watching Williams out there, and without NCM, honestly there’s a little less guilt from the pang of a good receiver not getting touches. There’s a curse to having talent on the roster, and it’s that much of the talent won’t get their turn.
We joked on one of our Orange and True podcasts whether or not he’d have more catches than names, and he didn’t. We just didn’t think that that would include the entire season.
What with the new redshirt rules — you can play up to four games in a season and still redshirt — this is only going to happen more and more. Especially if there are freshmen getting opportunities like we’ve seen at Auburn this year. It’s only a matter of time before more programs experience similar departures with either upperclassmen going somewhere else to finish their careers strong, or younger players not breaking into the rotation quickly enough. I could see a brash young freshman getting discouraged that he hasn’t made the two-deep and leaving only a few games in. We’re going to see all the possibilities of this new rule before too long, and we may not have even given most of them a second thought.
The bottom line right now is that Auburn lost a very good receiver, and it’s likely going to be a bit of a blow until we can work Will Hastings and Eli Stove fully into the lineup again. It will provide an opportunity for Seth Williams to become a real playmaker in this offense. If he rises to the occasion, then a viable receiving trio like him, Slayton, and Davis may become something special. In the words of Ike Clanton, “Turn ‘im loose!”
Best of luck to Nate Craig-Myers and his brother Jayvaughn. Members of the Auburn family even in departure.