Analyzing Auburn's top offensive weapons for 2020
Gameday is fast approaching. Preparations have been made. Many expect Auburn’s opener against Kentucky to be one of the top matchups of the weekend.
The Tigers’ offense will need to be effective in order for that expectation to become a reality and avoid an upset some are predicting. Not just Saturday, but the entire season. The offense will need to carry more of the burden this season than it did last season. The combination of a more experienced quarterback in Bo Nix and new offensive coordinator Chad Morris must go a long way in creating that reality.
Both Nix and Morris need the help of a few offensive weapons, however. The good news? Auburn has plenty to choose from. With a deep stable of running backs and plenty of experience returning at receiver, finding guys who can make game-changing plays shouldn’t be an issue.
Below are some of the top offensive weapons Tigers fans should expect to see against the Wildcats and beyond.
Honorable mention: WR Eli Stove, RB Mark Antony-Richards
Seth Williams, WR
Seth Williams is the most nationally recognized offensive weapon Auburn has, and rightfully so. Thank last year’s opener against Oregon for that. At 6-3, 211 pounds, the rising junior brings a nice combination of size, length and leaping ability to the top of the receiver depth chart.
Williams uses that rare combination to win a high rate of 50-50 balls. He’s aggressive at attacking the ball at its catch point, and he’s more than capable of out-muscling defensive backs on a regular basis.
In 2 seasons, Williams has posted 85 receptions for 1,364 yards and 13 touchdowns. His 59 catches for 830 yards and 8 scores in 2019 all led the team, but the hope is that the Cottondale (Ala.) native will be able to finally break the 1,000-yard mark this season even in a shortened season.
Anthony Schwartz, WR
While Williams brings the size and physicality to the wide receiver position, Anthony Schwartz brings a perfectly complementary skill set. He’s listed at 6-0, 179 pounds and possesses elite top-end speed that can rival any player in college football.
Heading into his 3rd season, it’s time for Schwartz to be utilized correctly as a consistent deep threat. He is always a threat on jet sweeps and bubble screens, plays that quickly get the ball in his hands. The hand injury that slowed down his development early in 2019 should not be a hindrance.
If Nix can hit Schwartz on a few deep balls, it will add a dynamic to the offense that he lacked for quite some time. Auburn completed just 7 passes covering 40+ yards last season. Ultimately, that changes everything in how defenses have to attack and defend.
D.J. Williams, RB
The Tigers have at least 3-4 running backs who can be relied on for consistent touches, if need be. Shaun Shivers is listed as the starter, but Auburn will rotate frequently.
It’s hard to determine the pecking order beyond Shivers. D.J. Williams will certainly be a part of it, however. With Boobie Whitlow gone, Williams is the returning rushing leader after turning 84 carries into 400 yards and 2 scores in 2019.
The rising sophomore wasn’t used much as a receiver out of the backfield. He hauled in 5 receptions for a mere 32 yards. That role will be handled by others, however. Williams is there to be a runner, and he’ll be an effective player in that role.
Tank Bigsby, RB
Speaking of being an effective runner, how about the true freshman phenom Tank Bigsby? The 4-star from Georgia was rated as a top 40 prospect and the nation’s No. 4 running back for the 2020 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Bigsby is listed at 6-0, 204 pounds on the official roster. But he’s a thick runner who also brings the ability to be a contributor as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Pass protection is a relative unknown, but overall, he’s a guy who is ready to make an impact.
If there was a running back capable of assuming an every-down role for Auburn this season, Bigsby would be a safe bet despite his youth. Again, Auburn has too much depth to likely go that direction. Other guys on the roster have strengths that will almost certainly be utilized, but the only thing Bigsby lacks at this point is experience.
Shaun Shivers, RB
Shivers wants to be known for more than just the punishing TD run against Alabama in the Iron Bowl, though that’s a pretty good way to endear yourself.
He’s listed as the starter for Saturday’s opener, but at 5-9, 179 pounds, it’s not realistic to expect him to be a bellcow. But he’s earned the opportunity and is the group’s veteran leader. He’s waited patiently for 2 years — his 11-yard TD run against Bama, for instance, was his only carry of the game.