Former walk-on Will Hastings ready to prove he’s an every-down receiver for Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. — Will Hastings has no plans to take the easy way out when he steps on the field for Auburn football this season.

“Everyone says I’m too small, I’m too whatever,” Hastings said. “I could have run out of bounds multiple times, but I’m here and I’m ready to take some hits, and I can do it.”

The stat sheet from Auburn’s 41-7 win over Georgia Southern backs up his claims. The 5-foot-10, 167-pound junior caught every pass Jarrett Stidham threw his way Saturday and racked up 68 receiving yards. Still, it was — and is — just the beginning.

REPORT CARD: Auburn defense virtually perfect while offense shows room for improvement  

The speedy wideout waited for his moments, the most memorable of which came in the fourth quarter.

“When I stuck at the top I knew I was going to be open, I just didn’t know if [Stidham] was going to throw it,” Hastings said. “But when I saw the ball in the air I was like, ‘All right, this is going to be a touchdown.’ I was just making sure I was in bounds.”

It was the perfect beginning to a very different fall. Gus Malzahn and his Auburn coaching staff awarded scholarships to Hastings and five other walk-ons at the end of fall camp. For Hastings, the scholarship, perhaps most importantly, provided a confidence boost entering the season.

“It was awesome,” Hastings said of the opener. “It was just a really fun time. I went out there and did my thing, and I felt really good.”

During fall camp Hastings received praise from Malzahn, offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and teammates.

The same things were said leading up to 2016, but this year the Little Rock, Ark., native promised to maintain his success for the entire year. The Tigers coaches seemingly believe he can be a consistent offensive threat.

MORE: Auburn defense sticking to simple approach for rematch at defending national champion Clemson 

“He has gotten better with the experience factor,” Mazlahn said. “He is very quick. Like we have talked about before, he is one of the quickest guys to come through our program at least since I have been here. He has done a good job.”

The speedster has developed a bond with new quarterback Jarrett Stidham in a relatively short time. The two became friends during one of Stidham’s recruiting visits and grew closer over the summer.

“He’s a guy that I can rely on,” Stidham said. “There’s a ton of guys in that room that I can rely on. He’s super fast, super quick. It’s hard to cover him. He just seems to get open more times than not. It’s my job to get him the ball.”

It’s a mutual understanding between receiver and quarterback in an offense that will attempt to balance its run game and passing game in 2017.

“If I let him down I know it and if he lets me down he knows it,” Hastings said. “We’re both on the same page and it’s just a trust.”

And while Hastings’ abilities and athleticism set him apart, it’s his attitude that be the deciding factor.

“Well you know you’ve gotta go one game at a time,” Hastings said. “You can’t slip up any game. You can’t look forward, you can’t look back. Then when we go to Clemson [Saturday, Sept. 9] it’s going to be a big game. We should have had them at home last year, and so I’m excited to get up there. It’s going to be a big game.”

The post Former walk-on Will Hastings ready to prove he’s an every-down receiver for Auburn appeared first on SEC Country.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.