Every Monday and Thursday, Plainsman sports staffers Zach Tantillo and Nathan King will analyze an Auburn football player who has a chance to make a sizable impact on the team next season.
Today’s Fortune Teller focuses on Ryan Davis, the senior wide receiver who is coming off a record-setting season on The Plains.
In a loaded receiving corps consisting of players who fit a prototypical receiver build, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound Ryan Davis does not jump off the page as any team’s viable number one option.
That all changed in 2017.
Flashback to 2016, when Auburn’s offense was the definition of one-dimensional. The Tigers ran the ball 60 percent of the snaps and rushing accounted for 61 percent of the offense’s total yardage. The heavy reliance on the run seemed to foreshadow that the passing game and receiving unit were going to be lost in purgatory of Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee’s offense.
But during the following offseason, Auburn hired Chip Lindsey as offensive coordinator that became a shot in the arm for the Tigers, as Lindsey loves to get his best players the ball in open space, which is perfect for a quick and nimble Davis.
The next offseason addition was that of transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who prides himself on accurately delivering the ball to his receivers. The combination of these two additions would be key for Davis going into his junior season.
Now back to 2017, Auburn is poised to have a more balance offensive attack and utilize all of its weapons, especially Davis.
Davis quickly became Stidham’s go-to receiver, garnering a team-high 27.1 percent of targets.
“He seems to get open a lot. I like throwing it to open people, and he's just always open. He's a hard worker. I'm just trying to get him the ball," Stidham said.
“Ryan has been a talented young man for a while, but he’s to a point now where he wants the ball,” Malzahn said. “He’s desperate to get open.”
Not only does Davis constantly find himself open, part of Stidham’s willingness to throw in Davis’ direction is his ability to catch the football. In 2017, Davis posted an 84.2 catch rate out of 101 targets, according to Football Study Hall.
“Ryan Davis has proven that he’s one of our playmakers,” Lindsey said. “The thing about him is he catches the ball with his feet on the ground and continues to be moving. He’s smooth, and he’s a competitor.”
Davis’ shining moment came against No. 1 ranked Alabama as he forged his name into the Auburn record books. In the 2017 Iron Bowl, Davis went off, catching 11 passes for 139 yards in the 26-14 win. With the 11 receptions, Davis set the Auburn single-season reception record, passing Darvin Adams’ 60 receptions set in 2009.
Davis would go on to finish the season with 84 receptions for 815 yards and five touchdowns.
To put Davis’ dominance into perspective, he caught 84 passes on 101 targets compared to next-best receiver Darius Slayton who was targeted 74 times but only reeled in 29 passes. Davis also had the highest catch rate out of wide receivers who received at least 10 targets.
Davis is headed into his senior season as Auburn’s clear-cut No. 1 option. After a year of experience under Lindsey’s system and getting in rhythm with Stidham, Davis is positioned to replicate his 2017 campaign and lead another dynamic receiving corps.