AUBURN, Ala. -- When Auburn’s coaches talked about Sammie Coates in the spring and preseason practice, it was about his potential.
Coates catches a TD in the SEC Championship game/Todd Van Emst photo
Coates is having a breakout sophomore season with 38 catches for 841 yards and seven touchdowns. His 22.1 average yards per catch is second in the nation.
“I think he’s greatly improved,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He’s become a better player without the ball. That’s hard to do for receivers.”
With Coates, like it is with many young players, it’s about the little things like route running, blocking and catching. It’s about doing those little things right on every play.
Much of his improvement this year has come under assistant coach Dameyune Craig.
“Coach Craig has done a wonderful job with him,” Malzahn said. “He’s improved each game. Obviously he gives us a deep threat. Any time you’ve got a guy who can run as tall as him, and can jump, that’s a threat. When his time has come, and when his number has been called, he’s delivered this year.”
His catch and run for a 43-yard touchdown at Texas A&M tied the game 24-24 early in the third quarter. His 88-yard touchdown catch at Arkansas gave Auburn a comfortable 28-3 third-quarter lead.
He tied the Iron Bowl with a 39-yard touchdown catch with 32 seconds left in the game, and opened up the SEC Championship game against Missouri with a spectacular 38-yard touchdown catch.
Coates is also quick to credit Craig for his development this season.
“I think I focus more and I concentrate more now because last year I wasn't really there and coach Craig came in, he got me to start focusing and play my game,” Coates said. “...He really made me grow up a lot. I knew I had to step up and grow up. He just helped me do that. I had to take another step in my life, grow up and become a better man.”
It’s off the field that Coates feels like he’s changed the most.
“I got baptized. I tried to change my life around as far as doing the right things and helping others,” he said. “It's just the little things I really haven't been focused. I've always been putting myself ahead of everything else. I just figured out that it isn't all about me. We've got a team, we've got a family outside this place. Auburn fans, they know they look up to us, kids look up to us.”
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