Applicants for Replacing a Team Leader
No. 89 blocks for Ricardo Louis against LSU.
It’s an off week for the Auburn Football Team and it may have come at a good time. Not only can a banged up defense use the time to get some guys healthy; but the offense can use the time to find a player to the fill the void left by Wide Receiver Jaylon Denson. The junior underwent surgery yesterday with Dr James Andrews in Pensacola for what may be a season ending injury.
Even though Denson hasn’t gotten the big plays like teammate Sammie Coates, his loss was described by Gus Malzahn as “a big blow.” Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee said the 6’3″, 220 pounder was the leader amongst the receiving corps. He’s an unselfish player who did a lot of things that go unnoticed. The most important of which was blocking on the perimeter, a vital key to Malzahn’s HUNH offense.
Yes it was a big blow because it was beginning to look like Denson and Coates might be poised to take on the roll of the Dynamic Duo of Darvin Adams and Terell Zachary from the 2010 Championship Season. Coates who leads the SEC in yards per catch (27.8) has assumed the mantle of Adams as a legitimate deep ball threat. And Jaylon Denson, was beginning to look like a blocking and possession style receiver of a Terell Zachary.
“Jaylon is one of our most consistent, if not our most consistent, receivers.” Malzahn said. “(Now that) we have an off week, we have a chance to start to develop some of those younger guys and get a plan moving forward.”
Who could step in to the breech to fill the gap?
There are several candidates; five different Tigers caught passes in the LSU game. But receiving is only part of the job task. Sophomore Ricardo Louis at 6’2″ and 215 lbs., has the size to deliver the big blocks. He is tied with Coates for the most receptions (11). Coaches feel like he has big-play potential; maybe he could step up and seize the position.
Lashlee also mentioned sophomore Melvin Ray, a 6’3″ 215 lb. receiver who mostly saw time on special teams last season. However, the two names that have been mentioned a lot this week have been freshmen Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens.
Davis at 5,9 and 176 lbs’ is the smaller of the two but he showed he could be depended on in the clutch when he caught four passes on Auburn’s game winning one minute and 45 second touchdown drive against Mississippi State.
The coaches have really been high on Stevens though. Dameyune Craig says he has moves and quickness that belies his 6’4″ frame and he seems to be over a hamstring injury that hindered him in fall camp. Lashlee mentioned his name as one player who may be receiving more snaps after he had two receptions against the Bengals Saturday. He said Monday that, “(Stevens) and Davis are two guys that we feel like can help us now, and I expect bigger things from Tony moving forward.”
One things for certain, with Georgia and the remaining brutal SEC West schedule ahead, the Tigers need someone to step in to Denson’s role asap. The job description? Must be a good blocker, have good hands, be a disciplined route runner, possess leadership ability, and have an unselfish attitude with a willingness to do the dirty work. Could a freshman fill that bill? I don’t know. But we may find out.