Auburn Football: Receiver D’haquille Williams on Record Pace


Aug 30, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers wide receiver D’haquille Williams (1) walks onto the field prior to the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports


The call has been heard often – at least 31 times so far – at Jordan-Hare Stadium and even on the road as Auburn fans celebrate a pass, a catch, and possibly a touchdown.

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“Duuuuke” is of course Auburn football player D’haquille Williams, a junior wide receiver in his first year on campus who is off to a record pace through the first six games of 2014.

His numbers are surprising in a sense: Williams was expected to be a compliment to Sammie Coates, who emerged in 2013 as a big play receiver for the Tigers, and became one of the most dangerous playmakers in the Southeastern Conference. With Williams and Coates teaming up as options for quarterback Nick Marshall in the passing game, the #AuburnFast offense became even more dangerous.

“It’s also just huge in general, because it makes it hard for people to double and take certain guys away when we’ve got more than one guy,” offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said earlier this year. “Duke’s proven that he can win versus zone, win versus man.”

However, Coates has dealt with a nagging leg injury that has limited his production. The leg caused Coates to sit out against San Jose State, and has allowed Williams to emerge as Marshall’s top target. After catching 42 passes for 902 yards and seven TDs last year, Coates has just 12 catches for 222 yards and one touchdown across the first six games of the 2014 season.

Over that span, Williams has hauled in a team-leading 31 receptions for 493 yards and five touchdowns. The junior college transfer doesn’t just lead the 2014 Tigers, he’s already more than half way to Darvin Adams‘ single-season school record of 60 receptions, set in 2009. Williams needs just 4.1 receptions per game through the next seven games (six regular season games plus a bowl game) to pass Adams.

In terms of yardage, Williams ranks third in the SEC behind Alabama’s Amari Cooper and LSU’s Travin Dural, and is currently the 39th best total in the nation. Williams is averaging a healthy 15.9 yards per catch and 82.2 yards per game as an Auburn Tiger.

The last number is important, because it is exactly what Duke Williams needs to maintain through the six regular season games and a bowl game in order to break the all-time receiving yards record at Auburn. Ronney Daniels set the mark at 1,068 receiving yards in 11 games in 1999.

There’s also a good chance the Louisiana native could become the single-season touchdown record holder. Terry Beasley caught 12 touchdown passes in 1971, a feat that still stands as the best in school history.

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  • “He just has a special gift,” Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn said of Williams when describing his impressive one-handed touchdown against Louisiana Tech earlier this year. “He knows how to catch the ball, so it doesn’t surprise me.”

    Overall, Williams’ success shouldn’t be all that surprising. Whether or not he came to Auburn expected to be the No. 2 receiver, he was considered to be the best junior college player in the nation last year at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Williams caught 67 passes, including 17 for touchdowns, and 1,295 yards as a freshman in 2012, and followed up with 51 receptions for 733 yards and nine scores last season. He earned NJCAA All-American honors in both years at MGCCC.

    “Y’all are getting excited about that?” former MGCCC coach Steve Campbell told the Montgomery Advertiser in an interview this season, discussing Williams’ early success. “Nothing has surprised me yet. The best is yet to come. It’s still out there. Before long, they’re going to throw it up, there’s going to be about three or four (defenders) around him. You’re going to go, they shouldn’t even have thrown that pass, and he’s going to go up and take it away from every one of them. They’re going to fall to the ground and he’s going to take it to the house. That’s what I’m waiting to see.”

    Can Williams keep up his record pace? Coates is nearing 100% health, and could compete for more targets as the season progresses. Plus, Williams is likely to see even more attention from opposing defensive coordinators than Coates faced last year. However, listed at 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, but appearing far bigger, Williams is a physical freak that can overpower defensive backs. As his former coach alluded to, Williams can jump higher than most, and then break tackles after the catch to gain additional yardage, so no record is out of reach.

    Except perhaps the career yardage records. If he planned to stay in Auburn for his senior season, Williams might have a chance at some of them. But, with his talent and skill, expect him to play on Sundays next year instead.

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