It's time to buy more stock in Landen King
After his surprisingly efficient first season, the 6-foot-5 freshman already has a lot of buzz heading into Year 2. Here's why you should be talking more about the hybrid sophomore.
WR/TE Landen King (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
The last two times a football has been thrown to Landen King in games being played in front of fans, he’s caught both of them for touchdowns.
The first was the play that ensured everyone around Auburn football would remember his name. On third-and-goal from the Alabama 5-yard line, King made an incredible one-handed grab in traffic for a touchdown that would send the Iron Bowl to double overtime.
The second one came a little more than four months later. The stakes were infinitely lower, but the situation was somewhat similar. King was lined up for an offense that was down a touchdown and facing fourth-and-8 with 30 seconds left in the Tigers’ A-Day Game. Facing press coverage, King shook off his defender and then beat him on a jump ball in the corner of the end zone on a back-shoulder throw.
“We all knew that was coming,” teammate Shedrick Jackson said. “We all knew that was going to happen. We were waiting on that to happen.”
And thus the legend continues to grow for King, a former 3-star tight end from Texas who committed to play for Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris but later signed with Kevin Steele and an interim staff. By the time he arrived on the Plains, he was set to play for Bryan Harsin and a brand-new crop of assistants.
It looked like King had a major uphill battle ahead of him in 2021. The coaches were completely different and his position group was stacked with returning veterans. Even though Harsin came in with a reputation of using the tight end much more than Malzahn, he also redshirted freshmen at a higher rate.
Still, the 6-foot-5 King became one of just two true freshmen to play over the redshirt limit for Auburn football in 2021, joining No. 2 running back Jarquez Hunter — another physical diamond in the rough who wasn’t highly recruited coming out of high school.
King first saw legitimate action at the halfway point of the 2021 season, catching two passes for 31 yards late in Auburn’s loss to eventual national champion Georgia. A week later, King caught two more passes for 23 yards, including a third-down conversion that helped Auburn take a two-score lead at Arkansas.
King played sporadically over the next few weeks and wouldn’t be targeted again until the Iron Bowl, where he hauled in his memorable catch in overtime. His final season statistics: five receptions on seven targets for 59 yards and one touchdown.
Those statistics don’t immediately scream “sophomore surge,” but there’s one thing to know about King — he’s a small sample size superstar in the making.