Thursday, January 14, 2010

Catching Up With Trooper Taylor

A year ago, receivers coach Trooper Taylor seemed to have the most questions to answer.

Auburn didn't have its two leading receivers from the previous year and, moving to a spread offense, had nobody really established as a potential standout.

Taylor said he found a pair early in spring practice: Tim Hawthorne and Terrell Zachery. A few days later he started hyping Darvin Adams.

Hawthorne never fully recovered from a foot injury suffered during the summer, but Zachery (26 catches, 477 yds, 5 TDs; 271 rushing yards and one TD on 10 carries) and Adams turned in tremendous seasons.

Adams especially had a great year. He set a school record with 60 receptions and finished with 997 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.

That came after Hawthorne's injury forced Adams into action.

Taylor expects big years from Adams and Zachery again in 2010, but didn't hesitate when asked who could have an Adams-like emergence next season.

"DeAngelo Benton," Taylor said. "I feel good about DeAngelo. I trust him. As the season went on, coach (offensive coordinator Gus) Malzahn trusted him a little bit more. He works hard in practice like you want everybody on the team to do. He doesn’t fuss or argue. It’s just ‘Yes sir.’"

Benton seems to be Taylor's choice though fellow true freshman Emory Blake got more opportunities at the end of the season. That seems to indicate Blake might be Malzahn's preference.

Taylor said Benton has made tremendous progress over the past few months after he struggled with some bad drops early in the season. Taylor attributed the drops to not knowing the offense well enough.

"It really was because he didn’t know the offense and I threw him out there early because I knew the ability that he had," Taylor said. "He went deeper on the routes than he was supposed to go so the balls were thrown behind him.

"I’m not one of those guys that say you went too deep. Once I got a part of him it was hard to bounce back. I think it made him better and made him mentally stronger."

When Benton needed to talk to someone, he went to Adams. Taylor said the two formed a tight bond and he thinks the pair could make a dynamic combination next season.

Benton will mostly work as Adams' primary backup, but could also split the slot receiver role with TE Philip Lutzenkirchen.

Taylor hopes Blake, meanwhile, will focus mostly on weight training between now and spring practice, saying Blake "needs to be married to Yox" -- referring to strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall.

More from my interview with Taylor tomorrow...

For more on Zachery and his breakout season, please read tomorrow's Anniston Star.

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