When auburn travels west to take on the No. 6 ranked LSU Tigers Saturday evening they are bringing with them an exponentially improved passing game from last season’s debacle under center. Nick Marshall is taking steps toward being a quality starter in this conference, but still has a ways to go before becoming an upper-echelon signal-caller in the SEC, but his weapons at wide receiver and tight end could help him by developing at a similar rate as he.
Sammie Coates leads Auburn in yards with 167 and is second to freshman Marcus Davis in receptions with seven, and already eclipsed his 2012 totals of six receptions for 114 yards. At 6-2, 201-pounds he gives Marshall a big target on the perimeter to complement smaller receivers like Davis (5-9, 176) and Quan Bray (5-10, 186). He could be in line for a season approaching 700 yards.
Bray, a junior, already has more yards than he did a season ago as well with 108 yards on six receptions, including a crazy 76-yard touchdown vs. Mississippi State in week 3. His career high for receptions is 17 set two years ago as a freshman and should fly by that total before Halloween.
The aforementioned Davis led the team with six catches vs. Mississippi State last weekend after totaling two in the first two games, and the former three-star athlete/cornerback is making quite the impression on Gus Malzahn and the Tigers offensive staff. He played quarterback at American Heritage in Delray Beach, FL and is developing nicely in the Auburn offense.
Tight end C.J. Uzomah earned a nomination for the John Mackey award watch list in the preseason despite having only seven receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown, and through the first two games it looked like that was a mistake.
He did not record a catch in the team’s first two contests, but with Auburn trailing by three in the final seconds vs. the Bulldogs last week made the biggest catch of his Auburn career with an 11-yard touchdown to win the game. At 6-4, 258-pounds he has the size and strength to be a complete tight end, but he disappears for long stretches. If he can put together a consistent four quarters vs. LSU he could make an impact down the seam and also in pass coverage against a nasty LSU front four.
Yes, the Auburn passing game is much better than when the two teams met a season ago when Kiehl Frazier passed for 97 yards and two interceptions. Look for Marshall to potentially take a Mettenberger-like jump in production next year, but that won’t help much on Saturday.