AUBURN, Ala. — Trooper Taylor is fond of hyperbole. Rarely has Auburn’s wide receivers coach had a player who wasn’t destined for big things, at least in his eyes.
So when he gushed about freshman wide receiver Trovon Reed’s potential — “Ray Charles can figure out the kid is blessed with a lot of ability,” he quipped — it’s natural to receive it with a hint of skepticism.
That the praise has been almost universal from teammates and coaches gives it more credence, however.
Reed, a 6-foot, 181-pound receiver from Thibodaux, La., has been at Auburn since only May 17, participating in summer workouts and three practices without pads, yet those who have seen him play predict big offensive production from him this season.
“He can run,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “He’s got a different gear. Very attentive to detail. He’s pretty explosive.”
“He runs great routes and he’s pretty fast,” cornerback Demond Washington said.
“He’s going to be one of those guys who’s going to come in and do certain things for the offense that’s really going to give us a burst of energy,” quarterback Barrett Trotter said.
Reed, the top-ranked high school player in Louisiana last year, has been eager from the get-go, using the summer as a transition time. He played quarterback his final three years of high school but began to learn the intricacies of playing receiver this summer.
“You’re used to having the ball in your hand on every play, and now you have to work to get the ball,” Reed said. “So it’s kind of hard.”
His persistence to learn the new position resulted in a constant hounding of No. 1 quarterback Cam Newton, who said Reed “kicked the door down” with his talent upon arriving.
“Usually, freshmen come in and try to do everything other than try to get better,” Newton said. “But Trovon consistently (said), ‘Hey, man, let’s go throw. Hey, man, let’s go do this. What’s this? What’s that?’
“He’s always a gnat to learn something new in this offense. With that attitude, a player like that will be great.”
Even after practice began, reviews have been positive, especially from Taylor, who has promised big things from freshmen.
He hyped DeAngelo Benton and Emory Blake throughout last preseason, saying they’d be integral parts of the offense. They combined for 154 receiving yards on 15 receptions, 11 of which came against Furman.
But immediate playing time is probably in Reed’s future, especially now that Benton is out indefinitely with jammed fingers and his right hand in a plaster cast.
“Mentally, I think I am (ready); physically, I think I am,” Reed said. ‘You won’t know until game time. If you freeze up on game day, that’s it.”
Reed is versatile enough to play several positions. He can return kicks and punts or could be an option as a wildcat quarterback, roles he played in high school.
Or he could push for serious time on the regular offense, perhaps emerging as the Tigers’ long-sought third wide receiver to complement returning starters Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery.
Reed has started by working behind Zachery — and the senior is well aware of the freshman.
“Trovon is putting a little pressure on me,” Zachery said. “I’ve got to step my game up.”