AUBURN, Ala. — D'haquille Williams surprised no one but himself Saturday.
In his collegiate debut, the former No. 1 overall junior college recruit had the best receiving performance by Auburn player since Darvin Adams' 217-yard effort in the 2010 SEC championship game.
Williams provided an instant boost to Auburn's still-developing passing attack by recording 154 yards and one touchdown Saturday — a performance the new wide receiver wasn't expecting in his first game for the Tigers.
"Honestly, I didn't come in and think I was going to have a big game like this," Williams said. "But I just kept catching the ball and catching the ball, making plays. As the game went on, the ball kept coming to me, so I just had to make big plays for my team."
Williams' production wasn't a shock to his coaches and teammates, who saw his "attack mentality" during both spring and fall camp for the Tigers.
"I think everybody saw today he's got playmaking ability in the passing game," head coach Gus Malzahn said. "I thought that was a good shot in the arm, too."
Williams caught seven passes from sophomore quarterback Jeremy Johnson before halftime, including a game-high 62-yard strike and an 18-yard touchdown to give Auburn a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter.
"I actually thought he would score on that one," Johnson said on Williams' long reception. "But when he started going, I was like, 'He's fast, but he ain't that fast.'"
When Arkansas was able to eventually catch up with Williams after the catch, he continued to showcase his separation skills with several broken tackles.
On one play in the third quarter, he made four different Arkansas defenders miss even though he didn't gain any yardage.
"This was my first game, so I was just trying to make a play and keep those alive, not knowing I should just catch the ball and go upfield," Williams said. "I just have to learn from my mistakes. Now I know to just catch the ball and go upfield."
Williams had no problem getting open against the Razorbacks' secondary, which returned three starters from the 2013 season.
By lining up as the slot receiver on most plays, the newcomer created matchup problems for Arkansas.
The move was by design for the Auburn coaching staff, which saw the potential headaches the 6-foot-2 Williams could for opposing defenses.
"We had a plan that if they played us a certain way, we would attack them with him in the middle of the field," Malzahn said. "That's kind of what happened, and he did a good job executing."
Williams' presence on the inside opened up more opportunities for the Tigers' outside receivers, especially Melvin Ray, who was the only other Auburn receiver to have multiple catches.
"You can't double-team everybody," Williams said. "When you stick on one of us, somebody else is going to step up and make a play."
With Auburn working toward more balance offensively this season — the Tigers focused on the pass in the first half before grinding out the victory on the ground in the second — Williams' teammates say Saturday was merely the beginning for the Louisiana native.
"I expect a lot more of that throughout the season," senior running back Corey Grant said.