Auburn’s season thus far can be best described in one word: tumultuous.
The Tigers haven’t lived up to expectations and have had their share of bad news since Week 1. Things just got even worse.
Senior wide receiver D’Haquille Williams dismissed from the team on Monday evening, which was confirmed by Auburn’s official website and coach Gus Malzahn.
“Any time you have to make a tough call and dismiss a player, it’s not easy,” Malzahn said. “At the same time, this is a team sport and you’re always going to think about the team first. You give people chances, you give opportunities for people to prove themselves and the bottom line it didn’t.
“It’s not easy and it shouldn’t be easy for a coach, but you’ve got to do what’s best for your team.”
Williams has a history of trouble including a suspension that forced him to miss Auburn’s bowl game due and another in August that kept him sidelined during fall camp.
We still don’t know what Williams did to earn a dismissal, but Malzahn noted Williams’ dismissal was a hard decision to make.
“You give people chances, you give opportunities for people to prove themselves, and the bottom line [is they] didn’t,” Malzahn said. “It’s not easy, and it shouldn’t be easy for a coach, but you’ve got to do what’s best for your team.”
Whatever it is, it must have been something that had the potential to bring even more distraction to a disappointing season for Auburn. Even former teammate and team captain Jonathan Wallace — who considers Williams a close friend — knew the move had to be made.
“Personally, I love him to death,” Wallace told the Montgomery Advertiser. “I’m sad to see this had to take place but it needed to be done so we can move forward and get better as a team.”
Williams had a disappointing start through five games. The wide receiver — who ESPN’s Mel Kiper projected as the position’s top prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft — recorded just 147 yards and one touchdown on 12 catches.
But now, Williams’ production will really be absent in Auburn’s offense in the latest example of why Auburn has experienced a nightmare season.
The team whose expectations were College Football Playoff or bust seemed busted out of the gate. Sure, the Tigers’ first actual loss came in Week 3 as LSU’s Leonard Fournette nearly won the Heisman Trophy in September and led his team to a 45-21 route.
But no, Auburn never quite looked like the preseason favorite to win an SEC Championship and possibly contend for a national title. The Tigers looked flat against Louisville in Week 1 and far less dominant in a near-upset against Jacksonville State in Week 2.
Quarterback Jeremy Johnson — who was regarded by many as a preseason Heisman candidate — was benched before Week 4. Will Muschamp’s expected defensive improvements have been non-existent thus far.
But losing Williams — one of the team’s best athletes despite a disappointing output — is the perfect example of Auburn’s season. Like Williams, the team entered with high expectations and failed to live up to them.
The wide receiver’s college career is similar to Auburn’s chances as a contender: over.
Auburn is the most disappointing team in the SEC, maybe even college football given its preseason push as a contender. But, like Williams, its in-game output fails to measure up to preseason hype.
It’s a shame to see Williams’ college career end prematurely given that he was one of the most explosive wide receivers in the SEC in 2014. While his talent should earn interest from NFL scouts, his history of off-field controversy should bring up red flags.
The Tigers have enough problems and this news doesn’t help any of them find a solution. Williams’ dismissal is the latest in a tumultuous season for Auburn that doesn’t show signs of changing any time soon.