Auburn Football: Duke Williams Suspended For Outback Bowl, But Will Not Declare For 2015 NFL Draft


There have been a lot of questions surrounding the future of Auburn football player D’haquille “Duke” Williams.

The wide receiver has practiced only once for the Outback Bowl while suffering from an “illness,” and was late to Tampa to join his team for the post-season game. Williams has also been contemplating whether or not to enter the NFL Draft early.

Head coach Gus Malzahn addressed Williams’ future Monday morning in Tampa.

Wow. Really? Forget the part about the bowl game suspension – that’s not all that surprising or even important in the grand scheme of things… Duke Williams is coming back to Auburn in 2015?

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Williams has played just one season for the Tigers after transferring from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The Louisiana native led the team with 45 catches, 730 receiving yards and five touchdown grabs despite injuring his knee in the second quarter of Auburn’s 41-38 loss to Texas A&M and missing two full games.

Following his two-game absence, Williams caught seven passes for 121 yards against the Crimson Tide while wearing a large knee brace.

His production, his size and his athleticism made Williams a potential first or second round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

“I think Duke Williams, with his size and physicality and the year he had coming over from the JUCO ranks, if he runs well [at the combine], he could be in the late-first (round) to early- to mid-second round discussion,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. said in a recent teleconference.

Apr 19, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers receiver D

The 6-foot-2, 216-pound wideout made an immediate impact with nine receptions for 154 yards and a TD in the season opener against Arkansas. It was the first of four times this season Williams passed the century mark in receiving yards, with quality opponents Kansas State, Mississippi State and Alabama being the other three, so it’s not like he feasted on inferior competition.

“The smaller corners are going to have trouble with him,” Kiper said.

However, it’s the college corners that will have trouble with Williams in 2015. Not the professional ones.

With Williams on the fence about coming back, the Auburn football team was in danger of losing each of their top three pass catchers with the departure of junior Sammie Coates to the NFL Draft and the graduation of senior Quan Bray. Had Williams declared for the Draft, Auburn would have lost 80.5% of its 2,768 regular season receiving yards once factoring in senior running backs Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, as well as tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse.

Instead, the Tigers will have the SEC’s best receiver next season and Auburn football fans will have more opportunities to scream “Duuuuuuuuuuke!” in 2015.

Of course, before we all get too, too excited, remember Williams has until January 15 to officially declare for the draft.

Next: Did 2014 Tigers Suffer From a Lack of Senior Leadership?

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