Auburn, Ala.--Junior Prechae Rodriguez caught 13 passes for 240 yards last season and came out of the spring as the starter at the X receiver position. However, Rod Smith claimed the starting role during fall practice and
Rodriguez had only caught five passes for 50 yards before the game against Florida.
“I’m just trying to be as flexible as possible,” he says about his lack of playing time. “When I get my chance to get in I just try to make a play happen. Hopefully that will improve my playing time and it’ll improve over the next six games.”
Rodriguez had his biggest game this year as far as production and playing time against his home-state Gators on Saturday catching three passes for 26 yards. He could have had another on a corner route but the ball slipped out of his hands when he turned up field on what could have been a big gain.
The receivers as a unit had one of its better games of the year catching 12 passes and also blocking well down field to open up the running game.
“It was a big game for all of us to prove that we’re good receivers,” Rodriguez says. “We just tried to do the best we can. We catch the ball and block. Most of it is blocking. We just play our role on the team.”
Growing up in Tampa and attending Jefferson Senior High, the 27-17 victory was especially sweet because of his relationship with some of the Gators.
“That was tremendous,” Rodriguez notes. “I always wanted to play Florida since I was a little kid since I was a Florida State fan. I always wanted to play Florida and a lot of guys on Florida I went to high school with. Reggie Nelson, the safety, he played junior college ball (at Coffeville Community College) with me and we’re real good friends. It was just nice to go out there and play in that type of atmosphere against that team.”
Florida recruited Rodriguez out of high school as well as Jefferson Senior teammate Andre Caldwell, who caught two passes for 25 yards and rushed three times for 47.
“We talk all the time,” Rodriguez says of Caldwell. “After the game we gave each other props and some good lucks for games down the season.”
Courtney Taylor, who has had to deal with more double coverage from the safeties this year than any other, had five receptions against Florida and says that part of the reason why he has been able to make more plays in recent weeks is because the rest of the receivers are coming along and making plays as well.
“The younger guys have made huge strides,” Taylor explains. “We’re getting better as unit. Basically as a unit the last game was our best game of the season. We’re going in the right direction. Just to the point for our last game to be the best game of the season, that’s one of the biggest games of the year. I think that’s just a sign that shows all of the guys are ready to play in big games.”
When Auburn kicks off against Tulane at 1:30 on Saturday, it'll be a good sign if players like Rodriguez, Smith and Robert Dunn step up and perform well if the Tigers are to make a run at the SEC Championship.
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