The quarterback battle at Auburn between Kiehl Frazier, Jonathan Wallace, Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson will dominate headlines, but the battle at wide receiver will be very intriguing as well.
One guy the Tigers desperately need to step up during fall camp is 6'0", 190-pound junior Trovon Reed.
Reed came to Auburn as one of the centerpieces of the 2010 recruiting class. With a 5-star rating in the 247Sports.com composite in tow, he was expected to make an immediate impact. Injuries and inconsistency have limited him to just 30 catches, 286 yards and one touchdown during his career, but a return to the hurry-up, no-huddle offense should benefit Reed as he looks to live up to the hype that followed him to the Plains.
He has good hands, is dangerous in space and has enough speed to run away if he gets behind the defense. According to AL.com, he sits atop the depth chart at flanker heading into fall camp; which means that he'll get the ball in a variety of ways, including screens and play-action fly routes.
Essentially, it's the same role Terrell Zachery played for the 2010 Tigers when he caught 44 passes for 633 yards and four touchdowns.
Auburn needs Reed to step up. If he does, he would provide the eventual winner at quarterback with plenty of options and could be one of the final pieces to a 180-degree turnaround for the offense.
His role is important to stretch the field, but he's more important in third-down and short-yardage situations when the defense loads up against the run. That's huge, no matter who the quarterback is.
The coaching staff already likes Jaylon Denson at "X" wide receiver.
The 6'3", 219-pound junior emerged this spring as a consistent weapon at the "X" receiver spot. Denson's route running, hands and ability to go up over the top of defensive backs will draw the attention of opposing defensive coordinators.
"Jaylon was the most consistent from Day 1 through Day 15 as far as being mentally tough, physically tough, wanting the football and being a consistent performer," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "You've got a guy like Trovon Reed who's been around the block, and he did a really good job of being steady [this spring]."
The combination of Denson and Reed could create one of the most dynamic duos in the SEC before all is said and done. It's up to Reed to take that next step.
Having options at wide receiver early in fall camp will also give the coaching staff more quality information as it answers the lingering quarterback question. With four players vying for the spot at quarterback, having as much of the offense in place as possible is vital in making the right call. Snaps will be precious in fall camp, and consistency in the wide receiving corps will make the decision of the coaching staff easier.
The common misconception about new head coach Gus Malzahn's offense is that it's "too cute." Malzahn's offense is really a two-back, downhill rushing attack out of the spread. With Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant in the backfield, the Tigers already have the rushing part of the equation set.
But you can't succeed in the SEC in the long term if you're one-dimensional, and Reed's ability to step up will add to that second dimension.
He's already acting the part.
Hybrid linebacker/safety Justin Garrett pointed out that Reed has been one of the more vocal leaders of the team during summer workouts, according to AL.com.
If that translates to the field this fall, Auburn's offense will go from punchline to power in one short season.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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