AUBURN, Ala. — Two years ago, it would’ve seemed impossible — barring injury — for Nate Craig-Myers to only have 20 combined catches in his freshman and sophomore seasons with Auburn football.
Yet the former top-50 recruit will enter his third year at Auburn with just those 20 catches. As a sophomore in 2017, he played in all 14 games for the Tigers but only had 16 receptions for 285 yards.
Those numbers should jump in 2018, as Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey has made a point to give Craig-Myers more opportunities downfield in the offense.
“He’s been putting in a couple of shots for me,” Craig-Myers said Thursday. “And I feel like they’re finally believing in me and giving me a chance.”
Craig-Myers was quick to add his coaches and teammates “always believed in me.” But his first statement spoke volumes — the former blue-chip receiver is excited about how Auburn is using him through the first few spring practices.
“It’s just that trust factor,” Craig-Myers said. “I feel like they’re finally getting to that level, so it feels good.”
Auburn’s coaching staff challenged Craig-Myers to find another level this offseason. He was a constant fixture on the field for Auburn, even if the targets didn’t come his way.
“Nate is a guy that [wide receivers coach Kodi Burns] is asking a lot more of to take that next step, and he’s really responding,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “You can just sense, this is his third year in the offense, and he just knows it and reacts.”
For a recruit that once held a No. 1 national ranking at his position and 5 stars next to his name as a junior, Craig-Myers is nowhere near the stereotype of the prima donna wide receiver.
When asked about why Auburn didn’t give him many opportunities last season, he pointed at himself.
“You always go back and watch film and you see things that you could have did better, and I feel like I didn’t get more separation,” Craig-Myers. “And sometimes, defense schemed plays up that we can’t get open on. … I just felt like, whenever I didn’t get the ball, I just felt like I could do something else to help the team.”
The Tampa, Fla. native made sure to never complain about his lack of opportunities.
“I just put my head down and went to work,” Craig-Myers said. “I just did whatever I could and helped out my teammates. I feel like I could have did a little bit more, but overall, I did what I could do for my team. … I like to be around guys that just want to go out there and just help the team. Just work hard.”
Craig-Myers says he’s trying to teach that attitude to Auburn’s younger receivers. The Tigers recently signed a large class of blue-chip wideouts, many of whom will be expected to contribute early.
But if they don’t get the targets they may think they deserve, Craig-Myers can set them straight. He went through the same struggles in his first two seasons, and he’s turning the leadership skills he learned into more opportunities from his coaches.
“That’s always a good sign when the older guys get to a point where they can start coaching the younger guys, too,” Malzahn said. “Nate has the ability to make plays down the field. Kodi is going to give him the opportunity to do that in the spring, and hopefully that will carry over to next year.”
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