War Eagle Extra

Auburn wide receivers ‘obviously’ need to improve

Auburn wide receiver Jason Smith blocks Jeremiah Dinson at practicue Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
Auburn wide receiver Jason Smith blocks Jeremiah Dinson at practicue Tuesday, March 7, 2017. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn’s wide receivers are getting a clean slate with new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey.

It’s a much-needed fresh start for a group that’s struggled in recent years beyond the revolving door at quarterback.

Lindsey wants to identify the offense’s top playmakers by the end of spring practice, but it’s been a slow process with Auburn’s top two returning receivers — Darius Slayton (hernia) and Kyle Davis (personal reasons) — out for at least the first two weeks of camp.

“Hoping he can get back as quick as he can,” Lindsey said of Slayton. “I’m excited to see him on the field. Obviously I’ve seen him on film but haven’t had the chance to work with him yet.”

With Slayton and Davis out, Auburn went with some unexpected combinations at Tuesday’s practice.

The first team receivers for an 11-on-11 period included Eli Stove, Will Hastings, Nate Craig-Myers and Jason Smith, a group that combined for 41 receptions in 2016 with Stove accounting for 23 of them.

The second team offense featured walk-on James Owens Moss at receiver.

“It’s given some opportunity for other guys to get a lot of work, that’s for sure,” Lindsey said.

While Lindsey is reluctant to identify standouts — “I’d say different guys each day” — it’s not because he finds the overall talent of the group lacking.

“It’s a good group as a whole,” Lindsey said. “Obviously we have some things to improve on and that young group played in the SEC early last year so they grew up fast. At the same time I think this is a big spring for them and their development.”

It’s a position group that’s also motivated by the changes Lindsey is implementing to the offense.

Auburn isn’t abandoning the run, but Lindsey was hired to resuscitate the team’s passing attack, which vanished for long stretches last season.

“That's every receiver's dream,” Auburn receiver Nate Craig-Myers said. “Your eyes light up. We're a run team so when you hear the ball's coming to the outside, the perimeter, it feels good because now we feel like we can makes plays.”

Craig-Myers said he “loves” the offensive schemes Lindsey is putting in place this spring including some new-look RPOs.

The focus for the receivers for spring is finding the consistency they lacked last season.

“Their deal is they have to continue to put good days back to back together, and by the end of the spring hopefully we’ll be much improved,” Lindsey said.

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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