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Auburn receivers vying for catches

AUBURN – Tony Franklin knows Auburn’s receivers will eventually be worn out from running after all those balls in practice.

For now, he thinks the group is looking pretty good.

They have been busier than usual during fall camp since Franklin has implemented the spread offense, and it’s bound to take a toll.

“They’ll get dead leg here before long and they’ll look bad,” the Tigers’ offensive coordinator said. “But the bottom line is they’re good enough to win in this league.”

There are plenty of them for Franklin to choose from, too. The candidates range from veterans Rod Smith and Robert Dunn to freshmen Darvin Adams and Philip Pierre-Louis and redshirt freshman Quindarius Carr. Then there’s sophomores Terrell Zachery and Chris Slaughter and converted tailback Mario Fannin.

All could get plenty of balls thrown their way this season. Franklin comes from Troy, where 14 players caught touchdown passes last season.

By contrast, Auburn’s offense managed only 12 passing TDs last season.

“You really have to know what you are doing in this offense,” said Smith, who was the most consistent presence in the Tigers’ passing game. “The ball is going to be in the air a lot more, so you’ve got to have a lot more playmakers out there. We’re going to spread the ball around this year, so we’re looking for a lot more guys this year.”

Who gets the most praise among the youngsters depends on who you talk to.

Lately, Slaughter has impressed Franklin. He has beefed up a bit to 180 pounds – still 15 fewer than the coaches’ goal – and he’s playing in a system similar to his high school offense.

“He’s been dramatically better,” Franklin said. “Slaughter has a chance to be special if he practices every day the way he’s done these first few and has his life in good order. That kid has a chance to be really special.”

Slaughter came in as a highly touted recruit out of prep school but was a nonfactor last season. He had just three catches for 19 yards.

“In high school, I was the big man,” Slaughter said. “In prep school, I was the big man. With this offense going on and us throwing the ball, everybody’s looking forward to me being the big man. That’s what I have to do.”

Then there’s the new guys, Pierre-Louis and Adams.

Pierre-Louis had an 80-yard touchdown negated by penalty during Saturday’s scrimmage, coach Tommy Tuberville said. His speed still leaves an impression.

“I’ve never seen anybody run that fast in my life,” tailback Brad Lester said.

Cornerback Jerraud Powers has been impressed by both Adams and Pierre-Louis. Adams had 11 touchdown catches as a high school senior while Pierre-Louis was a dangerous punt and kickoff returner.

“(Adams) looked extremely good. He’s a big guy in the slot,” Powers said. “Pierre-Louis is a real fast guy. If he gets behind a corner on a go route or something, he’s going to be hard to catch. He’s fast. He’s competing, too. They look good.”

Fannin, meanwhile, had shoulder surgery in the spring and sat out the first scrimmage. He had 18 catches last season, tops among the running backs.

Even Smith, whose 52 catches easily led the team last season, is looking forward to more chances with the ball.

“Being in a passing offense, that’s a wide receiver’s dream,” he said. “You can’t ask for much more than that. Last year we ran the ball a lot. We passed the ball a little bit. All the receivers you can tell are excited about coming out and know we’re going to have the ball in the air a lot.”