In its first loss of the 2018 campaign, Auburn saw its offense sputter. But if anyone's to blame, it's not the freshmen receivers.
First-year wideouts Anthony Schwartz and Seth Williams have turned their star potential from high school and "phenomenal" showings from fall camp into productive starts to Auburn's (2-1, 0-1 SEC) season.
Williams, a 6-foot-3, over-the-middle target whom Jarrett Stidham said has the best leaping ability on the team, caught two passes for 37 yards in a season-opening win over Washington. And after two more receptions for 35 yards against LSU, the freshman is tied for fourth on the team in yardage.
Schwartz was an offensive no-show against the Huskies, but racked up 117 total yards the next week in Auburn's 63-9 win over Alabama State. The world-renowned track star had a touchdown through the air and on the ground, using his elite speed to score on both. He's second on the roster in receiving yards after two catches Saturday.
"You see Flash (Schwartz), Seth Williams, you see a lot of young guys out there," said Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. "That group, they're talented, like I've said before. Each game, you see their roles grow. We've got a bunch of young guys.
"We've got to keep that in perspective, too. We've got a bunch guys touching the ball on offense, we've got a new offensive line coming together."
Williams' highlight of the year came on a play that won't show up in the stat sheet. On Auburn's go-ahead drive in the second quarter, Stidham rolled to his right and tossed a prayer into double coverage along the sideline. Williams rose up and caught the ball between two defenders, though it was eventually ruled an incompletion.
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Stidham said he didn't see the catch because LSU's defensive line slammed him to the ground.
"Seth has a very bright future here, I have no doubt about that," Stidham said. "He's a playmaker. When he came in the summer, I wasn't sure because I hadn't been around him that much. But once you get to know the guy, see how he works, his work ethic, you can tell he's going to be a special player.
"Some of the things he can do, some of the catches he's making I think speak volumes. I can definitely see him continuing to get better throughout the rest of the year."
As Malzahn alluded to, the Tigers are heavily relying on youth in the early season. Although the team returns starting receivers Darius Slayton, Ryan Davis and Nate Craig-Myers, along with junior running back Kam Martin, the young offensive weapons haven't stumbled in picking up their own unique offensive roles.
Williams is the man who can catch anything. Schwartz is the one that can't be caught. JaTarvious Whitlow is leading the team in rushing and Shaun Shivers is second. The four make up 47.7 percent of Auburn's offense through three weeks.
"First of all, they earned it," Malzahn said of the freshmen's impact. "Anyone on the field has earned the right to be on the field through practice. You find out a whole lot about players on the field ... that's when you really find out about guys."
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