AUBURN, Ala. — D'haquille Williams' 2014 season ended in the most ignominious of ways: Auburn's leading receiver last year was suspended for the Outback Bowl for what coach Gus Malzahn called a violation of team rules.
So the player who led the Tigers in receptions (45), receiving yards (730) and receiving touchdowns (five) could only watch as his team fell to the Wisconsin Badgers in overtime 34-31. His suspension came on the heels of what had been a turbulent month for the talented pass-catcher. Williams was injured in Auburn's 41-38 loss to Texas A&M on Nov. 8 and then sat out the next two games against Georgia and Samford, respectively.
He returned to play versus Alabama, finishing with seven catches for 121 yards in a 55-44 loss.
But as the Tigers began to prepare for their matchup with the Badgers, things took a strange turn. Williams missed a week of practice for what Malzahn said was a sickness which required treatment. But many questioned that explanation after Williams posted a photo on his personal Instagram accounted that appeared to show him sporting a bloodshot left eye and a bruise on his left cheek. (Williams later deleted the post.)
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Then, on the day Auburn's players were supposed to arrive in Tampa, Fla., for the Outback Bowl's opening dinner, Williams was nowhere to be found. Malzahn said the receiver was just "running late" and would arrive the following day, which indeed came to fruition.
Two days later, Malzahn announced Williams' suspension.
As the Tigers begin spring practice, however, the Louisiana native is back in good graces.
"He's in good standing just like everybody else up until this point," Malzahn said Tuesday.
So despite the odd end to his 2014 season, the coach is expecting a standout senior campaign from Williams this fall.
"I would say we ask a lot of our seniors each year," Malzahn said. "He's been with us one year and knows expectations, so we're going to ask him, along with the rest of our seniors, really to lead and guide this team like we expect."