- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
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AUBURN, Ala. -- Freshman wide receiver Marcus Davis might have dropped a pass in Saturday’s win over Mississippi State -- a typical freshman mistake -- but quarterback Nick Marshall wasn’t concerned about it. He knew he was going to look his way again, and with the game on the line, he did.
On the last drive, Davis caught four passes for 38 yards to help Auburn move down the field and score the game-winning touchdown.
“He developed well tonight because he came through on some of those catches,” Marshall said. “I know he had dropped one, but I told him don’t worry about it. I was going to come back to him.”
For the game, Davis led all Auburn receivers with six catches, but it was his impact on the final drive that drew rave reviews from the coaching staff.
“I was really proud of him,” offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “For a freshman, he came in, he made a lot of big catches, and he was smart. He caught it and got out of bounds, or he caught it and got the first down. … He responded the same way the whole offense did, ‘Hey, this is just another drive. The moment's not too big for us.’”
Through the first two games this season, he only had two catches, but when his number was called, he delivered. Nerves were never part of the equation for the young man, even with the game on the line.
“To be honest, I wasn’t even looking at it that way,” Davis said. “I was just out there playing football.”
That’s been his way since high school where he was a 5-foot-9, 175-pound quarterback as a senior. When he committed to Auburn, he knew he was going to have to switch positions, but he still had every expectation to play early and to play often. In his same recruiting class, the Tigers landed a trio of ESPN 300 wide receivers, all of whom were ranked higher than he was, but he didn’t care. He was going to play as a freshman.
“I just play with a chip on my shoulder,” Davis said. “I don’t even look into the politics or anything like that. I just play football.”
Through the first three games, two of the aforementioned receivers have yet to record a catch while the other failed to qualify academically and landed in junior college.
More importantly, Davis is emerging as the potential go-to wide receiver in Gus Malzahn’s offense. Veteran targets Quan Bray and Sammie Coates have each have hauled in a long touchdown reception early in the season, but it was Davis who looked to be Marshall’s No. 1 target down the stretch.
Part of that is what the defense gave Marshall on the last drive, but part too is the developing chemistry between the first-year quarterback and the first-year wide receiver. The two hooked up for a touchdown the week before, the first for both players.
“Each and every week, we’re growing up,” Davis said. “I just feel like it’s going to continue. We’re going to continue to grow together.”
It’s still too early to tell if Davis becomes that go-to wide receiver for Auburn, but he will have plenty of opportunities to claim the role after his performance against Mississippi State.
“Marcus is a guy that, he’s a freshman, but he’s not playing like a freshman,” Malzahn said. “He’s really stepped up and you’ll see him on the field more.”
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