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Countdown to kickoff: Who will be Auburn’s top freshman receiver?

Auburn receiver Eli Stove talks with fans at the program's annual Fan Day on Sunday, August 14, 2016.
Auburn receiver Eli Stove talks with fans at the program's annual Fan Day on Sunday, August 14, 2016. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Editor’s note: T-minus 19 days and counting until Auburn opens the season against Clemson on Sept. 3 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Check back every morning as we break down the roster, profile key players and look at unanswered questions coming out of training camp.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn welcomed wide receiver Kyle Davis to the Plains by calling him a “phenomenal player” in February.

The four-star prospect out of Archer High School in Georgia had plenty of advantages in competing for playing time in his first year arriving on campus as one of the Tigers’ nine early enrollees with talent and size of a Division 1 football player.

Davis’ health hasn’t cooperated.

He missed spring camp recovering from shoulder surgery and didn’t practice during fall camp rehabbing a foot injury.

The wide receiver could return to the field by the end of the week, but having missed the majority of preseason practices Davis won’t have much time to catch up to his teammates.

Fellow classmate Eli Stove has generated some preseason camp buzz in among the group of highly touted receivers in Davis’ absence.

The one-handed grab Stove made in Auburn’s first scrimmage last week wasn’t the only standout play he’s made during camp.

“He’s caught our attention,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “There’s no question. He’s another guy in the vein of Kameron Martin that, he’s done some really good things that say, OK, we need to keep working with this guy. He needs to be able to help us this year.”

Nate Craig-Myers might be flying under the radar, but he shouldn’t be counted out as a potential top freshman contributor either.

The 6-foot-2, 204-pound Florida native has all the tools the coaching staff is looking for to generate explosive plays.

“Nate Craig is doing a great job for us,” Auburn wide receivers coach Kodi Burns said. “He listens to what I say and he's a coachable guy. It's about development now. These guys are all talented and now we've got to develop them.”

Extra point: Will Auburn have a 1,000 yard receiver?

A lot would have to fall into place for one of Auburn’s receivers to reach the mark.

The Tigers would need to get more consistency out of its quarterback while developing a rotation at receiver quickly enough for a top guy to emerge.

“We don't have a guy like Sammie Coates or Ricardo Louis right now,” wide receivers coach Kodi Burns said. “Those guys have moved on. Right now, we're trying to figure out who that guy is.”

Auburn’s receivers also face an uphill battle of being in an offense that excels behind a dominant run game.

Bottom line – It’s easier to picture one of the Tigers’ younger receivers developing into a player capable of picking up bunches of yards, but this offense isn’t there yet. If Auburn’s offense clicks the offense might have a receiver match the numbers Ricardo Louis put up last year (46 reception for 716 yards).

Stat of the day

Auburn hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Ronney Daniels crossed the mark in 1999 with 55 catches for 1,068 yards.

The milestone has been reached 41 times by 35 players in the SEC during that 15-year span.

Amari Cooper (2012, 2014), Mike Evans (2012, 2013), D.J. Hall (2006, 2007), Sidney Rice (2005, 2006), Jabar Gaffney (2000, 2001) and Josh Reed (2000, 2001) each did it twice.

The Tigers are the only team in the conference to go the last 15 years without a 1,000-yard receiver.

SEC 1,000 Yard Receivers

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