Sal Cannella can only look forward.
With one receiver down, the rest are just going to have to pick up the slack in his place.
Auburn’s standout wide receiver Seth Williams has been ruled out of the team’s game against Kent State this Saturday, head coach Gus Malzahn announced Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
Williams was injured making a deep catch near the goal line in the Tigers’ 24-6 win over Tulane last Saturday. He left the game and was seen in a sling on the sidelines late in the game and after it.
Just a week after his game-winning touchdown catch in the season opener against Oregon, Williams was sidelined.
Now it’s up to Auburn’s other receivers to rise in his place.
“It’s the next man up,” Cannella said during Auburn’s press conference Tuesday. He just learned that Williams was ruled out for Saturday’s game himself.
Auburn and Kent State kick off at 6 p.m. in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Malzahn didn’t offer many specifics on Williams’ injury or any on his potential return — but either way, Auburn has a game to play and is focused forward.
“Of course, we’re hoping he recovers as fast as possible to get back out there, because that’s a guy we need out there,” Cannella said. “At the same time, we’ve got an opponent to face this week and we’re going to go out to battle with the guys we’ve got and I’m confident that we’ll get the job done.”
Williams was a standout for Auburn as a freshman last year, and shined again in AT&T Stadium against Oregon when he caught the 26-yard game-winner from Bo Nix with nine seconds left in the game.
Last year, he caught 26 passes for 534 yards and five touchdowns — including one in the final two minutes of a comeback win over Texas A&M.
Now, Texas A&M looms on the schedule after Kent State. The Tigers’ conference opener is on the road at Texas A&M on Sept. 21.
Malzahn did not say whether Williams would be available for that game, saying only that the sophomore would be out this week.
“Seth, we’ll see where he’s at, like I said Sunday, about his availability for the next week,” he said. Details were sparse then as well. “I think it’s kind of a day-to-day deal as far as that goes.”
Malzahn has only said that Williams suffered a left shoulder injury.
The injury occurred in the game’s second quarter, on a 40-yard completion from Nix down to the Tulane 1-yard line. Williams went up for the ball and grappled with a defender for it, landing badly in the tussle.
He stayed down for several moments as trainers treated him and then left with team personnel for the locker room.
He was out of his uniform and sporting a sling by the time he returned to the sideline.
His fellow sophomore, Anthony Schwartz, is working back from his own injury. He had surgery on his left hand in the preseason, and has had heavy taping over his wrist and hand in each of Auburn’s first two games.
Auburn targeted the track star once in last Saturday’s game against Tulane. He dove for the ball but the pass came up incomplete.
Williams and Schwartz were Auburn’s two leading returners at wide receiver coming into 2019. They were Auburn’s most productive pass-catchers in 2018 behind the departed Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton.
So far through two games this season, veterans Will Hastings and Eli Stove have flashed their skill, each catching touchdown passes. Hastings and Stove missed most of last season after rehabilitating from twin ACL surgeries in the spring of 2018. Just as Schwartz and now Williams have gone down, Hastings and Stove have made their return to the spotlight — and should play even bigger roles so long as go-to receivers like Williams and Schwartz are limited.
“He’s going to practice more and more each week,” Malzahn said of Schwartz. “This week, he’ll be on the field more than he was last week. As far as taking the cast off, that’s a week-to-week deal. I don’t know exactly when that’s going to be. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but I can’t guarantee that it’ll be the next week, either.
“But he will be on the field more and more each game.”