With the second half of spring practice kicking off this week for the Tigers, and the annual A-Day game inching closer, how Auburn’s wide receiving corps develops under their new position coach, Cornelius Williams, will be a point of interest for fans.
Williams, who has spent the previous six years coaching wide receivers at Troy, has also coached the same position at UAB, North Alabama, and South Alabama. The move to Auburn represents a huge step up in the coaching ranks for Williams.
"This job is huge not only for myself but my family and everything involved,” said Williams. “The competition at this level is the best in the country. I was so excited but at the same time I felt like everything I had done up until this point in my life had prepared me for this.”
It will be Williams’ job to breathe life into a position group that has done well over the past few seasons, but that saw just about all of its production leave early for the NFL Draft.
Juniors Anthony Schwartz, Eli Stove, and Seth Williams all decided to forgo their senior year and try their chances at the NFL. Stove leaves after spending five seasons with the Tigers, amassing 136 catches for 1,186 yards and six touchdowns. He was also a consistent run threat with 554 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Right as Stove went down with an ACL injury, Schwartz stepped onto the scene as arguably the fastest player in college football became a staple in the Auburn offense. Schwartz’s three seasons at Auburn saw him reel in 117 catches for 1,433 yards and six touchdowns as well as 323 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. With both of these speedsters gone, the Tigers will need to find a new slot receiver to rise to the occasion.
Arguably Auburn’s biggest loss will be that of Seth Williams. In Williams’ three years on the Plains, he had 132 catches for 2,124 yards and 17 touchdowns, which is seventh, fourth, and third, respectively, all-time among Auburn receivers.
His ability to make physical catches led to spectacular moments and caused the defense to respect him, freeing up other receivers. A consistent force on the field, his presence will be greatly missed this season.
With many of Auburn’s top receivers leaving, it will be imperative for Williams to find out who is ready to step up to the plate when fall rolls around. The good news is that already early in fall camp Williams can see lots of determination from the receiving corps.
“These guys have definitely stepped up to the challenge," he said. "I mean it's a challenge for all of us because of learning something new. They take pride in being the best of their craft and they are wanting to work until they are the best.”
Williams acknowledged that the Tigers lack the much-needed experience that is needed to compete at a high level in the SEC, but also emphasized that his players are doing their best to rectify that inexperience as quickly as possible.
“The biggest deal for us is going to be putting in the time and effort to put in the details," he said. "From the time you wake up to the time you go to bed at night, we have to do things right to gain that experience.”
Not only is this young group of receivers learning how to transition to a new position coach, but they are also transforming offensive systems.
The Tigers are accustomed to an all-spread offense with few routes, but are now having to learn many styles of formations with many different routes. While Williams said the transition will take some time, the leadership and culture established by new head coach Bryan Harsin is focused on the details, and that detail-oriented focus has made the transition smoother.
"(Harsin) talks about being in the moment and that’s a big deal,” said Williams. “Being consistent and doing the right things over and over and over and not getting tired of doing that. That’s what we need to do to be successful.”
Williams knows that they all have a long way to go to be game-ready but is confident his players, despite their inexperience, will be up to the challenge.
“We still have a lot to work on but I have been impressed with the effort so far.”