X-Factor Auburn: JUCO WR Duke Williams adds to Auburn's explosive offense
In preparation for the 2014 college football season, Saturday Down South takes a look at the X-factor for every SEC team. Not only do these players have the opportunity to make major contributions for their respective squads, but they could also be the difference in a successful season or a losing season.
Today, we’re discussing the X-factor for the Auburn Tigers.
- OLE MISS
- MISSISSIPPI STATE
- SOUTH CAROLINA
- TEXAS A&M
WR D’haquille “Duke” Williams
You would think that with an offense that threw just 285 passes all season – which ranked last in the SEC and 118th in the nation – a wide receiver wouldn’t be all that important to the success of that team.
But such is the case for the 2014 Auburn Tigers.
Their no-huddle, spread offense relied predominately on the option and run game. For example, Auburn scored 56 points in the SEC Championship game, but only threw 11 passes. In the BCS National Championship game, the Tigers attempted just six passes. Roughly 72 percent of their offensive plays were running plays.
In 2014, Malzahn is hoping to have a little more balance to the offense.
“We feel like we have some receivers that can stretch the field and make some plays,” Malzahn said at SEC Media Days. “We worked extremely hard to get more balanced. Hopefully, that will carry over to the fall.”
And that brings us to D’haquille “Duke” Williams. The No. 1 JUCO transfer as ranked by 247 Sports stands at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. He’s a big, physical wide receiver that goes after the ball aggressively and will often win those 50-50 jump balls. And did I mention that he also runs a 4.40 40-yard dash?
Williams’ impact on this year’s Auburn offense is two-fold. His obvious impact will come from his pure skills and abilities as a wide receiver. As I said, he’s a physical football player and quite frankly unlike any other Auburn receiver currently on the roster.
“He is a dangerous player,” said Auburn wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig. He is getting in and out of his breaks with cat-like quickness. We are actually seeing a better product (now).”
Earlier in the spring, Williams stood out as one of the best performers and has already established himself as a reliable red zone target for quarterback Nick Marshall. He led his team in the A-day game with five receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown with his touchdown reception coming on a jump ball in the corner of the end zone.
Williams’ effectiveness will also come from the secondary impact he has on his teammate, junior wide receiver Sammie Coates. Last season, Coates emerged as Marshall’s primary target with 42 receptions and 902 receiving yards. He excelled on the deep balls, but Auburn lacked a reliable target on the shorter routes. If Williams can become the go-to-guy in the red zone and on those shorter routes, it will open things up immensely for Coates, making him even more effective on the deep routes.
Coming into this season, the hype surrounding Williams continues to grow and he hasn’t disappointed so far. Fans have gotten a glimpse in fall practice of what they can expect from the former JUCO standout this season. Whether it’s a dazzling one-handed catch or simply his commitment to getting better, Williams is primed to play a significant role in this year’s Auburn offense.