Editor's note: The 2013 season is in the books. Any underclassmen eligible for the NFL draft have decided whether to return to school or pursue a pro career. And national signing day is drawing closer by the day. With that in mind, Auburn beat writer Ryan Black breaks down the team's 2014 roster, going position-by-position and giving his take on each spot's future. The series continues with the Tigers' receivers.
Who's Staying: Sammie Coates, junior: 42 receptions, 902 yards, 7 touchdowns
Ricardo Louis, junior: 28 receptions, 325 yards, 2 TDs
Marcus Davis, sophomore: 23 receptions, 217 yards, TD
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Quan Bray, senior: 23 receptions, 195 yards, 3 TDs
Trovon Reed, senior: Nine receptions, 98 yards
Melvin Ray, junior: Five receptions, 108 yards, TD
Tony Stevens, sophomore: Five receptions, 68 yards, TD
Jaylon Denson, senior: Three receptions, 45 yards; suffered season-ending knee injury in fourth game of 2013 season (at LSU)
Dominic Walker, redshirt freshman: Redshirted during 2013 season
Who's Leaving: None
Who's Coming In: D'haquille Williams: 51 receptions, 733 yards, 9 touchdowns (Numbers from past season at Mississippi Gulf Coast College)
Outlook: Auburn's receivers always took secondary billing to the running game last season.
Not that it should come as any surprise, since the Tigers did own the top rushing attack in the country. Even so, Auburn showed it could take to the air when needed and find success moving the ball. More often than not, that meant Nick Marshall was throwing it in Coates' direction. After a breakout season in 2013 and even more time to work with Marshall during the offseason, there's no reason the junior-to-be should see his numbers drop off.
That is, unless some of his catches start heading toward Williams. Though he'll be entering his first season at the Division I level after two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Williams is considered a "can't-miss" prospect. He has every intangible one would want in a receiver: prototypical size (6-foot-3, 213 pounds), speed (4.4 time in the 40-yard dash) and dazzling athletic ability. Just how good is Williams?
Good enough that his mere presence may change the way the Tigers' offense operates next season.
"If you look back, we’ve had years where we’ve thrown it a lot, and we are going to get more and more balanced next year," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said in December after Williams faxed his letter-of-intent. "Any time you’ve got a dynamic guy like him coming, that’s a really good thing."
It's not a bad thing that Auburn doesn't lose a single receiver from last year, either. Louis, he of the "Miracle in Jordan-Hare" fame, will have another season to develop more consistency. Davis, meanwhile, proved he wasn't overcome by pressure situations, making key catches in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State and Texas A&M, respectively. Bray comes back for one last go-round, while Reed's status is still uncertain. Earlier this month, he posted on his personal Instagram account that he would move to corner next season. (The post was subsequently deleted.)
When asked about a potential move for Reed, Malzahn said it was far too soon to make a decision on it.
Even if Reed slides over to defense, the Tigers still have more than enough able-bodied pass-catchers, including Ray and Stevens. The Tigers will bring Denson — arguably their top blocker at the receiver position — back into the fold as he recovers from a season-ending knee injury against LSU on Sept. 21. And after spending a season learning from Auburn's more experienced receivers, Walker will make his collegiate debut as a redshirt freshman this fall.
Two players not noted above who may also join the receiving corps are incoming freshmen Myron Burton and Stanton Truitt, whose versatile skill sets could have them lining up anywhere on the field; whether that's split out wide or in the backfield is still to be determined.