Duke Williams’ impact on Auburn offense

Auburn’s top offensive playmaker is being held out of practice. Kevin Connaghan explains D'haquille Williams’ importance.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Duke Williams’ impact on Auburn offense

Fall camp is here, but the Auburn Tigers continue to practice without their most potent offensive weapon, suspended wide receiver D’haquille Williams. Head coach Gus Malzahn hasn’t revealed the reason for the suspension, nor has he stated whether the suspension will extend into the season. If Williams misses any time, it’ll be a huge loss for the Auburn offense.

A five-star JUCO transfer, Williams joined Auburn ahead of the 2014 season and made an immediate impact, with a star turn in the season opener against Arkansas. Williams was targeted nine times against the Razorbacks, catching all nine for 154 yards. He also grabbed his first Tigers touchdown on a slant route in the red zone. Williams had the strength to let the first tackle glance off him, then fight through the second tackle to reach the end zone.

Among returning wide receivers, Williams finished 2014 with the fourth-highest receiving grade against Power 5 schools, and was the second-most productive from the slot with 3.33 yards per route run.

If Williams is out, Auburn will likely look to Ricardo Lewis to step up immediately. Lewis finished 2014 with a negative grade in the passing game, but flashed the ability to be an effective performer. Lewis’s 2.47 yards per route run against Power 5 schools would have made him one of the top 30 most productive receivers in the country had he run enough routes to qualify.

He progressed throughout the season, suffering his three worst grades in the first four games, and looks primed for a larger role in 2015 — ideally alongside Williams, rather than in his place.

Whether Williams will actually miss any time remains to be seen. The Tigers open the season against Louisville at the Georgia Dome, and while the Cardinals have had a lot of turnover, they aren’t to be taken lightly. Auburn’s chances will certainly be much better with Williams back in the fold.

| Analyst

Kevin has been an analyst at Pro Football Focus since 2014, with a particular focus on college football.

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