Despite playmakers around him, Duke Williams okay with being No. 1 receiver
Quarterbacks Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson are not lacking targets on the outside.
Auburn has a slew of playmakers at wideout including Sammie Coates, Quan Bray, Ricardo Louis and Melvin Ray. But it’s a newcomer, however, that has made the most impact thus far.
D’haquille “Duke” Williams was the nation’s No. 1 JUCO transfer this winter upon his arrival at Auburn. He was expected to be a nice compliment to Coates, the Tigers’ No. 1 receiver. Williams’ play has not disappointed, though, and with a knee injury that has hampered Coates since the season-opener against Arkansas, Williams has stepped up and proven to be the favorite and most reliable target of Marshall and Johnson.
All of the aforementioned receivers have notched at least four catches this season, but it has been all Williams, all the time for Auburn.
“As the season goes on, usually what happens is the quarterback usually has a couple of guys he feels very comfortable with,” Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn told AL.com. “I really don’t think that’s a negative. There’ll be games that we spread it around, and there’ll be games that we don’t.”
Williams has caught nearly 72 percent of his targets (for 357 yards and three TDs), more than enough to justify the attention he’s getting from Marshall and Johnson. Soon, that same level attention will come from opposing defenses.
“A lot of that has to do with your opponent,” Malzahn said. “A lot of it has to do with how they’re taking away something, double-covering a guy or something like that.”
As Coates begins to return to 100 percent, Auburn coaches are hoping that the emergence of Williams will free up Coates to do what he did so well last season.
“It’s also just huge in general, because it makes it hard for people to double and take certain guys away when we’ve got more than one guy,” offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “Duke’s proven that he can win versus zone, win versus man.”