NCAA Football

Should Auburn Worry About the Absence of WR Duke Williams?

AUBURN, Ala. — For the second straight practice, Auburn wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams was missing in action.

The star wide receiver for the Tigers, who caught 45 passes for 730 yards and five touchdowns after transferring from junior college in 2014, is out for what's being termed as a "discipline issue."

"When he takes care of that, he'll be back on the field," head coach Gus Malzahn said Saturday. "I'll make that decision and I will let you know when he'll be back. The bottom line is that nobody is bigger than the team around here. That's between me and him, and that's all of the questions that I'll take on that."

Cryptic? Yes. 

Concerning for the 2015 Tigers? Absolutely, although there are plenty of experienced wide receivers to help pick up the slack if Williams' absence becomes a trend rather than an early camp anomaly. 

Senior wideout Ricardo Louis seems like he's been around Auburn forever. If Williams is out, he will likely be counted on to play a much bigger role outside as both a deep threat and a possession receiver—which is where Williams was most effective a year ago.

"Ricardo Louis is a guy who has really done a good job in fall camp," Malzahn said. "He's raising his level and taking the next step and becoming a leader."

Marcus Davis and Melvin Ray are two veterans who have played plenty of football for Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee over the last two seasons, and they will also be counted on to pick up the slack. Ray, in particular, is closest to Williams in terms of size and skill. At 6'3", 215 pounds with good speed and long arms, he can replicate some of what Williams provided.

"Melvin Ray has done a solid job," Malzahn said. "Those are two players—along with Jonathan Wallace—we're relying on those guys for leadership."

Can Ray slide in and provide the exact same production?

That's unlikely, but Malzahn and Lashlee have all of fall camp to get him up to speed.

Another player to keep an eye on is 6'1", 180-pound sophomore Jason Smith. After transferring from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College where he played quarterback, Smith made the switch to wide receiver and has been the buzz of fall camp.

"You can just tell he's in a good place, and he's been one of those guys in the first four days that's been really impressive," Lashlee said Friday, according to Brandon Marcello of "I mean, if you were to ask me some guys that stand out, he's really stood out."

Don't be fooled by Smith's height and weight. For a guy who seems like he'd be lanky on paper, Smith is much more put together than it seems. He's not going to be a force like Williams over the middle, but he certainly can play that role from time to time if needed based on the limited viewing available to the media during Saturday's practice.

There are options for Malzahn and Lashlee if Williams is out for a prolonged period of time, and the staff does have the luxury of time to get the receiving corps prepared for Plan B.

Make no mistake, though: Williams could make this Auburn offense one of the most lethal in all of college football.

You know the running game will be fine. After all, Malzahn has produced 12 1,000-yard rushers in nine seasons as a college head or assistant coach. The connection between Williams and first-year starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy contender Jeremy Johnson was supposed to be what places the Tigers offense among the nation's elite.

For the time being, that offense is stuck in neutral until Williams figures out whatever "discipline issue" is going on.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93 XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on

OSU's Cardale Jones Gets Locked out of Apartment, Live-Tweets His Struggle

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones is worth following on Twitter. On Saturday, he gave the world yet another entertaining reason his feed is a must-read.

Fellow Buckeyes QB J.T. Barrett had Jones’ keys, so last year’s breakout star was locked out of his apartment for quite some time.

Luckily for us, he provided Twitter updates throughout the ordeal.

It started off with a tired Jones getting smacked with disappointment upon arriving at his place:

Then he got really bored:

Barrett didn’t seem too concerned with his friend’s struggle:

[Twitter, h/t For The Win]

Read more College Football news on