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Duke Williams Expected to Rejoin Auburn Following Discipline Issue

Auburn Tigers wide receiver Duke Williams missed his second straight day of practice Saturday, and coach Gus Malzahn said he is dealing with a “discipline issue,” according to Brandon Marcello of AL.com. 

Marcello also noted that Williams is expected to return to the field, but the coach avoided providing any specifics about the return date when answering questions and said, “I will let you know when he’s back.”

Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report provided a quote from Malzahn, adding more context to the situation:

Auburn is expected to be one of the best teams in the country this season, checking in at No. 7 in the initial Amway Coaches Poll, and Williams is a major reason why. He was the Tigers’ leading receiver in 2014 with 45 catches for 730 yards and five touchdowns and is a genuine NFL prospect.

Joel A. Erickson of AL.com suggested as much:

But bigger numbers aren't the only thing that would cement Williams as the top receiver in the 2016 draft. A big-bodied receiver known for his catch radius, hands, ability to make catches in traffic and work the middle, Williams needs to improve his speed.

With that in mind, Auburn's coaches have asked Williams, who played at 230 pounds last season, to drop 10 or 15 pounds and play faster next season.

If he can do that, Kiper thinks Williams will be the top receiver heading into next year's draft cycle, and that could mean big money as a top-10 pick.

Despite the obvious talent, this is not the first off-field issue for Williams.

Marcello pointed out that Auburn suspended the receiver for the Outback Bowl against Wisconsin because of an undisclosed violation of team rules after he missed practices, and Williams even posted a picture of himself on Instagram with a black eye around that time.

The Tigers have national championship aspirations this season, but it is difficult to envision that happening without their most talented receiver on the field.

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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 AL.com. "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 cfbstats.com. 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.

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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]

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