Has Auburn improved at wide receiver? For most of the 2023 season, the passing game was an issue for the Auburn Tigers. The wide receiver position was a key part of those problems. The Tigers finished last in the SEC in passing and averaged just 157.1 yards per game through the air. They were second worst with just 17 passing touchdowns. When Hugh Freeze was hired last off-season, it was believed by many that the Tigers would become better through the air. While they were able to overcome those struggles to a 6-6 record, more talent is needed.
Has Auburn Improved at Wide Receiver?
Perry Thompson and Bryce Cain
How does Auburn get better in the passing game? Go get better wide receivers. That is a task that needs to be accomplished by Freeze. During the Summer, the Tigers got commitments from five-star Perry Thompson and four-star Bryce Cain. Before saying yes to Auburn, Thompson had committed to Alabama. The star from Foley had a good year in 2023 despite his team going 5-5 and missing the AHSAA Playoffs. Thompson caught 53 passes for 718 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. He ranks as the third-best player in Alabama.
Cain is a player very familiar with Thompson, as his team the Baker Hornets are in the same region as Foley. Both teams played in the very competitive 7A-Region 1. The Hornets though were a playoff team finishing second with an overall record of 8-3 and 5-1 in region play. Cain was surrounded by talented players at Baker featuring quarterback Josh Flowers, receiver Kevin Beckham, and Roderick Taylor. For Flowers, he was committed to Mississippi State until December 5th, and Beckham is committed to Troy currently. Cain led the team in receiving with 43 receptions, 948 yards, and 16 touchdowns.
The big receiver commitment for the Tigers happened a little over a week ago. When Jimbo Fisher was fired at Texas A&M many Auburn fans wondered if it was possible to flip Cam Coleman out of Central Phenix City. Coleman is ranked eighth nationally and first in Alabama overall. He is also ranked as the third-best receiver in the country. Over the last two seasons for the Red Devils, he has been unstoppable. This season he caught 61 passes for 1,372 yards and 18 touchdowns.
He helped lead Central Phenix City to a state championship in 7A with a 21-19 win over Thompson. In the game, he had 143 yards on five catches, but his biggest came with nine minutes left up 14-13. He caught a slant pass over the middle and took it for 73 yards and a touchdown to go up 21-13. Thompson was looking to win their fifth straight state championship.
On Sunday, the Tigers got a transfer portal commitment in former Georgia State receiver Robert Lewis. This season he was seventh in the Sun Belt with 877 yards and added seven touchdowns. In the third game of the season against Charlotte, Lewis had 220 yards off of six catches and found the endzone twice. One of those scores was a lengthy 97 yards. Lewis was ranked as a three-star when he signed with the 2020 class for Georgia State.
Adding a receiver was important due to Auburn losing depth due to the transfer portal. Malcolm Johnson, Jyaire Shorter, and tight end Tyler Fromm have all entered the portal. With the receiver talent that could be on the way to Auburn, more may enter the portal to find somewhere else to catch passes. Has Auburn improved at wide receiver? It seems they have, but time will tell.
So, who will throw the ball to these talented receivers? That is another big question for the Auburn Tigers. Payton Thorne and Robby Ashford were the quarterbacks for the 2023 season, and as of this writing are still on the roster. The two rotated for the bulk of the first half of the season before Freeze settled on Thorne. The Michigan State transfer had moments where he made big plays for the Tigers but was not consistent. On the season he passed for 1,671 yards and 15 touchdowns. Thorne was second on the team with 520 yards on the ground. For Auburn to get where they need to be, a transfer quarterback could be needed.