Auburn Football: Five Tigers Key to a Victory in the Outback Bowl

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Aug 30, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers receiver Melvin Ray (82) runs for a touchdown against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the first half at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Melvin Ray

The Auburn football team will be without its leading receiver in the Outback Bowl. On Monday, Malzahn announced junior wideout Duke Williams was suspended for a violation of team rules and will not see the field January 1 (he will be back in 2015, however).

So, with Williams out, other Tigers wide receivers have an opportunity to step up.

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  • “We have guys we feel very good about who are veteran guys that have made plays for us the last two years. We have a plan,” Malzahn said.

    In addition to steady performers like Sammie Coates, Quan Bray and Ricardo Louis, expect to see more of Marcus Davis, Tony Stevens and Melvin Ray in Tampa.

    Ray could have the biggest impact in the bowl game, and beyond. The 6-foot-3, 207-pound junior will be one of the most experienced players in the receiving corps next season.

    Plus, he can make plays.

    Ray exploded onto the scene in 2014 when he scored the first touchdown of the year for the Tigers – a 49-yard catch and run on a Jeremy Johnson pass against Arkansas. The Tallahassee, Florida native caught only six more passes the rest of the season for 128 yards, but all six resulted in a first down. For the season, he averaged 25.3 yards per catch.

    “Melvin and I are kind of in and out of that position,” senior tight end C.J. Uzomah said last week when asked about replacing Williams. “I would expect to play a little more slot than as a hand-down tight end.”

    Uzomah will have a bigger role, but Ray may make a bigger overall impact, and it could give him great momentum heading into 2015.

    Next: Running Back Roc Thomas