AU FB 1st practice

Senior Auburn receiver Will Hastings runs through a drill with teammates on Friday during fall practice in Auburn. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

Mike Horton said he got flashbacks.

Just mentioning the names of four of Auburn’s big playmakers conjured visions for the offensive linemen — watching those speedsters streaking down the field in front of him.

They might’ve been memories from inside the stadium on gameday. They might’ve been different flashes shown in practice, like during the Tigers’ third workout of the fall on Sunday.

Either way, they were all big plays — and they bode well for the future for Auburn football.

Veteran receivers Will Hastings and Eli Stove are at full speed again in fall camp and speedy youngsters Anthony Schwartz and Shaun Shivers are back in the fold after spending the spring with the track team, and that boon of returning talent is a pleasant sight for teammates like Horton.

Auburn practiced Sunday for the first time this fall in shells, donning helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. The Tigers’ first full day in pads is Tuesday, as camp continues to ratchet up out at Auburn’s practice facility.

It was after Sunday’s workout that Horton spoke with reporters in the athletics complex—smiling when asked about those four players, Hastings, Stove, Schwartz and Shivers.

“Just when you said those names, it just made me flash back to certain plays that they made—like, explosive plays that they’ve made, where they can change the game,” Horton nodded.

“All those guys are game-changers. So I’m just happy to have them back.”

All indication from team personnel is that Hastings and Stove are both back at full strength after fighting back from devastating ACL injuries. Hastings is a redshirt senior back for one final season on the Plains, and Stove is a redshirt junior after redshirting last year when he was limited in his recovery.

Schwartz plays receiver and Shivers plays running back, and they’re both now back in pads for the first time since last December after running track in the spring.

“Probably about midsummer, I felt 100 percent,” Hastings said back on Friday. Hastings and Stove both went into ACL surgery in the spring of 2018. In the fall, both beat common prognoses and got back on the field in game action, but that saw Hastings undergo additional surgery in the fall while Stove redshirted after seeing action in less than five games.

Now, this fall after further recovery in the spring and summer, they can both say they’re nearing full strength again.

“I think coach (Ryan) Russell can vouch for me in that area, that I feel good and I’m ready to go,” Hastings said of the team’s strength and conditioning coach.

With those two back with Schwartz and Shivers, Auburn can count four big weapons back in the arsenal for the team this preseason.

Hastings emerged as a star and a fan-favorite in 2017, catching 26 passes for 525 yards and four touchdowns in 2017, while Stove grabbed 29 catches for 265 yards. As true freshmen last year, Schwartz rolled up 568 total yards from scrimmage and Shivers rushed for 371.

Malzahn said Friday that both Schwartz and Shivers jumped right back into work on the football field under helmets with ease, mentioning that both are sharp kids who stay around the football team as much as they can even when they are away athletically competing for the track team.

After Tuesday’s first practice in full pads, Auburn will take a day off from practice before the team’s first scrimmage of the fall on Thursday.

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