Note - Auburn starts preparing for the Birmingham Bowl next week, but with the regular season in the books it’s not too early to take a position-by-position look at how the Tigers performed in 2015 and what the future holds.
Grading Out: Alabama defensive back Cyrus Jones did a succinct job of summing up the performance of Auburn’s wide receivers when he called them “nothing special” leading up to the Iron Bowl.
The Tigers’ wide receivers share blame for the team’s disappointing offense this season.
A reoccurring issue for the group was dropped passes. The low-point was a season-high seven drops in a 54-46 overtime loss to Arkansas.
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Ricardo Louis dropped a ball in the end zone that would have set up a two-point conversion to tie the game. Louis didn’t shy away from criticizing his own performance following the game.
"It came down to crunch time, that's when it really counts," Louis said. "At the end of the day we got to execute; and that's what we didn't do and that's what I didn't do.”
The problem wasn’t as pronounced down the stretch in any single game, but the group still didn’t pack much of a punch.
Athletic receivers like Marcus Davis and Jason Smith were bottled up for most of the season thanks to conservative play calling and an inability to turn short gains into explosive ones.
A telling stat is Duke Williams finishing seventh on the team in receiving less than 100 yards shy of Auburn’s second leading receiver Melvin Ray. Williams was dismissed from the team five weeks into the season.
Curtain Call: Ricardo Louis will long be remembered by Auburn fans for the ‘prayer at Jordan-Hare.’ While he might not have reached the level of an elite receiver, he was still a productive player. He led the team with 45 catches for 699 yards and three touchdowns this season and is three catches shy of 100 for his career.
Louis struggled more than any other receiver in Jeremy Johnson’s return to the lineup with his streak of at least one catch in 24 straight games ending against Texas A&M.
Melvin Ray and Jonathan Wallace are also set to graduate and will leave a leadership void on their side of the ball similar to the group of graduating linebackers on defense.
Stockwatch: Jason Smith’s ‘prayer at Jordan-Hare 2.0’ against Alabama was probably the first time this season one of Auburn’s young receivers flashed the potential the coaching staff discussed leading up to the season. Smith and Marcus Davis gained plenty of experience this season, but will need to turn that into production. Highly rated prospects Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton will also be counted on to take an increased role next season.
Class of 2016 Commits: Kyle Davis (Archer); Eli Stove (Niceville); Marquis McClain (Crestview)
Outlook: The driving force behind Auburn’s offense is always going to be its run game, but the lack of a credible down field passing game made it harder for the running backs to do their job. One of the Tigers’ priorities on the recruiting trail is adding talent at wide receiver. It’s a sure signal the coaching staff knows it needs a home run threat and depth at the position.