Jul 8, 2020 (Akademos, Inc.)
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  Football Preview: Quarterbacks and Receivers

Heading into the 2017 season, Auburn's quarterback situation seemed to be solid with Jarrett Stidham ready to be the leader under center. Stidham was receiving a lot of hype for his strong and accurate throwing arm, and for good reason. But, the transfer from Baylor got off to a rocky start and played hurt for most of the season.

With new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey promising to throw the ball more, Auburn fans were excited to see Stidham's arm in action. Fans saw a glimpse of what Stidham was capable of during last year's A-Day game. And with a talented group of receivers to throw to, the offense was poised to light up the scoreboard.

Maybe it was nerves but Stidham had a disappointing performance in the second game of the season on the road at Clemson. He was sacked 11 times and the offense managed to score just six points.

After key victories over Missouri, Mississippi State and Ole Miss to start SEC play at 3-0, the Tigers headed to Baton Rouge for an always tough contest with LSU. Auburn suffered a 27-23 loss after Stidham was sacked on fourth down with two seconds left.

Stidham's struggles off and on throughout the season could have been because of rust for not playing at the collegiate level for a year. But, the inconsistent play was probably due to a partially torn labrum to his non-throwing left shoulder.

The injury, which was repaired in the offseason, may have been part of the reason Stidham fumbled the ball nine times, including one fumble in each of the Tigers' final five games.

Despite playing injured, Stidham was still able to put up pretty impressive numbers for the season, completing 246 of 370 passes for 3,158 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. He ran for 153 yards on 103 carries with four touchdowns.

He also led Auburn to victories over its two biggest rivals, Georgia and Alabama. Both were ranked No. 1 entering the contest.

While Stidham was limited throughout the spring, he'll be full-speed when Auburn opens preseason camp and will start under center when the Tigers open the 2018 campaign Sept. 1 against Washington.

With Stidham limited in the spring, Malik Willis got plenty of reps with the first-team offense and finished the A-Day game 8 for 20 for 45 yards.

As a backup last season, Willis saw action in seven games, completing 6 of 7 for 45 yards and a touchdown. He carried the ball 16 times for 221 yards and a touchdown. With Kerryon Johnson leaving early for the NFL, Willis should be the main option to handle the Wildcat formation.

Entering spring practice, the wide receiver position was in good shape with a wealth of experience and depth returning for the 2018 season. But as spring drills went along, injuries began to pile up and Auburn might be without two of its best receivers from last year.

Both Will Hastings and Eli Stove suffered torn anterior cruciate ligaments during spring practice and underwent surgery to repair the ACLs.

Hastings and Stove were two of the team's top-five receivers last season. Hastings was third on the team with 26 catches for 525 yards and four touchdowns, while Stove had 29 receptions for 269 yards and added another 315 yards rushing and two scores on the ground.

With Hastings and Stove out indefinitely, other position players will need to step up. Ryan Davis could see playing time at Stove's flanker position. Davis hauled in a record setting 84 catches last season for 814 yards and five touchdowns.

Devan Barrett could be moved from the backfield to receiver. Incoming freshmen Matthew Hill, Anthony Schwartz, and Seth Williams might have to grow up fast if the Tigers need more bodies at receiver.

At split end, Darius Slayton was Auburn's main deep threat last year with 29 receptions for 643 yards and five touchdowns.

Nate Craig-Myers will look to improve in 2018 after a somewhat disappointing season a year ago. Craig-Myers finished with 16 receptions for 285 yards and three touchdowns.


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