A lot is expected from wide receiver D’haquille “Duke” Williams, the No. 1 junior college receiver in the country last season who committed to Auburn back in December. During his two seasons with Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, the 6-foot 3, 215-pound target caught 26 touchdown passes. In both seasons the Louisiana native was a NJCAA All-American. The buzz is about Williams’ playmaking ability. His big-size, speed, athleticism and toughness is comparable to that of former Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
Along with the addition of Williams, Auburn returns their top four receivers from last year’s squad: Sammie Coates, Ricardo Louis, Marcus Davis and Quan Bray. Last spring it seemed like the cupboard was empty at receiver. Now it looks like a stocked pantry. Head coach Gus Malzahn has his deepest wide receiving corps in the three years he has been on the Plains.
Wanting a more balanced offense, the Tigers have more than enough horses to change from last year’s run-first, one receiver isolation attack. Auburn ran the ball three times as much as they passed it in 2013. Of the 173 passes completed by Tiger quarterbacks last season, 25 percent of them were caught by Coates.
Williams will give quarterbacks Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson another option. Because Coates was such a deep threat last season – third in the nation in yards per catch (21.7) – he was constantly double-teamed. Adding Williams to the equation gives Marshall and Johnson a reliable target for short and intermediate passes while freeing up Coates from being double-teamed.
In April’s A-Day game Williams lined up wide on the opposite side of Coates and had five catches for 88 yards and one touchdown. That could be the spot where Williams is used the most. Louis, Davis and Bray most likely will be lined upon the inside but Williams is versatile enough to line up in the slot as well. Depending on formations and the success of certain plays Louis, Davis and Bray might not see as much action if Coates and Williams thrive as the Tigers one-two receiving punch.