Auburn receivers look to break out in 2013

Sammie Coates is highly optimistic, which is always a start.

Auburn’s sophomore receiver said this week that the Tigers had the “best wide receivers group, I think, around.”

If that proves to be the case in the fall, we should see Auburn’s passing game take a huge step forward from what it’s been the past couple of seasons, which was virtually non-existent.

Last season, Auburn finished 13th in the SEC in passing with an average of 156.6 yards per game, and only had eight touchdown catches and 15 interceptions. Much of that was on poor quarterback play, but especially glaring the past two seasons has been the lack of a deep passing game.

Two years ago, the Tigers were ninth in the league in passing, and averaged 155.5 yards per game through the air.

They simply haven't been able to get deep on teams and stretch the field.

While the staff is still trying to sort out the quarterback situation with Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace battling it out this spring for the starting job, there are signs that the passing game will produce more big plays than it has the past two seasons.

Losing senior receiver Emory Blake was a blow, and junior Quan Bray is the only returning receiver who caught more than nine passes last season. Bray had some trouble off the field last season, but has refocused and had a solid spring.

He’s one of several players on this team who has benefited greatly from the new staff, new system and new start.

Coates, who caught a pair of touchdown passes last season, said Gus Malzahn’s offense is better suited for this group of receivers, just about all of whom were highly recruited.

One of the most pleasant surprises this spring has been the all-around play of junior receiver Jaylon Denson, who caught just one pass last season. At 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, Denson has been as consistent as any of the receivers this spring.

Junior Ricardo Louis is also poised to have a breakout season. He played some as a true freshman last season, and has the speed and athleticism to be that vertical threat the Tigers have been missing.

At tight end, junior C.J. Uzomah looks like he will be able to slide into the role that Philip Lutzenkirchen played so well the past few seasons.

The Tigers also signed a handful of receivers in the 2013 class, and guys like Earnest Robinson and Tony Stevens could be a factor when they arrive this summer.