Jay Fair is headed back home to Texas as Auburn's clear-cut WR1
Fair has had more catches and targets through the first three games than anybody for the Tigers since 2020. They'll need him Saturday.
WR Jay Fair (Austin Perryman/Auburn Tigers)
When Auburn wanted to get its passing attack rolling against Samford on Saturday, it turned to Jay Fair.
Facing a second-and-10 near midfield, Payton Thorne pulled the ball on an RPO and hit Fair for a quick stop route out of the slot. He got eight on the play, setting the Tigers up to convert on the next snap through Jarquez Hunter.
Fair would then run a quick out on first-and-goal from the 1, getting open with ease but being unable to bring in a misfired pass from Thorne.
On the next drive, Thorne opened with another RPO pass to Fair on a quick out, then launched the first of several completed deep balls to him for a field-flipping 36-yard gain. Fair, beating his man downfield in 1-on-1 coverage, made a nice over-the-shoulder grab and punctuated the play with a smooth first-down point.
By the end of a quick first quarter on Homecoming Saturday, Fair had three receptions — more than he had in the entirety of his true freshman campaign on the Plains.
In just the span of a single offseason, Fair has gone from a little-used reserve to a clear-cut WR1 in Auburn’s new offense. Head coach Hugh Freeze mentioned his name first pretty much every time the receivers were brought up in fall camp, and he said before the Samford game that Fair simply needed more touches.
Fair finished with seven receptions on 10 targets for 96 yards against Samford, giving him 14 catches on 20 targets for 174 yards so far this season.
He snagged a deep ball from Thorne for a touchdown in the opener against UMass, and he was able to help Auburn’s struggling offense cash in on good field position with an important 13-yard catch-and-run score against Cal.
Auburn hasn’t had a receiver get off to this quick of a start since the end of the Gus Malzahn era. Fair’s 14 catches and 20 targets are the most through the first three games of a campaign since Anthony Schwartz had 21 and 31 in 2020. (Seth Williams also had 29 targets through the first three games of 2020.)
And no one for Auburn in 2022 had a seven-catch game like Fair did against Samford.
Fair has suddenly become the guy for Auburn, especially with fellow slot receiver Ja’Varrius Johnson not being 100% due to nagging injuries. It’s a massive glow-up for a new key player, but Fair — soft-spoken and laid-back — doesn’t sound focused on the stats.
“It feels good to see some of that work pay off,” Fair said. “But I’m just looking forward to the season and seeing how we finish.”
That’s Fair through and through.
Off the field, he doesn’t like to go long on answers about himself in interviews, constantly pointing to his teammates and coaches. (He’s also often seen entering the football performance center with a bag of Chipotle in his hand.) Playing a position that has been known to have its fair share of proud big-talkers, Fair is different.
On the field, though, the personality comes out — and Fair turns into a playmaker that Auburn needs to take its offense to the next level.
“Off the field, he’s Jay Fair,” fellow wide receiver Shane Hooks said last Saturday. “When he steps between those lines, he’s 5. He’s 5. He’s locked in. He’s one of those younger guys that just got it… everything he needs.”
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