Auburn Spring Preview : Offense

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Auburn Spring
File photo. Head coach Gus Malzahn of the Auburn Tigers. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

“Hope Springs Eternal”, is a popular phrase made famous in the poem An Essay on Man by author Alexander Pope. It rings true for Auburn fans, players, coaches, and anyone connected to the Tigers program. Expectations were high for the 2018 edition, and they were not met. Those feelings should now be a distant memory, and hope returns with spring practice looming next month.

This Spring a lot of the attention will be on the Auburn offense. The Tigers dropped from being the third ranked offense in the SEC in 2017 to 11th in the conference last year. They went from 452 yards a game to just 390. A big reason for the drop-off was the lack of a consistent running game and having to put the burden of the offense on the shoulders of the passing game.

Gus Malzahn Calling The Plays

At the conclusion of the season, Auburn was looking for a new offensive coordinator. Gus Malzahn is now looking to bet on himself in 2019, and take over the play-calling duties once again. In the Music City Bowl against the Purdue Boilermakers, Auburn did have their best offensive performance of the season. Time will tell if that can be sustained, and much will not be shown in the Spring but how the offense operates could be very telling.

Who Will Be The Quarterback?

Last season Auburn thought they had a Heisman hopeful and future first round draft pick in Jarrett Stidham. He leaves Auburn for the NFL having thrown for over 5,000 yards and 36 touchdowns over his two seasons. Stidham did regress in his second season as starter but replacing his experience and productivity will not be an easy task.

Competing for the job will be a room full of inexperience with Joey Gatewood, Malik Willis, Cord Sandberg, and highly touted incoming freshmen Bo Nix. The four share a combined 16 pass attempts in game action. The most experienced of the bunch? Malik Willis with 14 attempts over the last two seasons, but those were done in mop-up duty when the game had already been decided. Nix will be a fan favorite going in, due to his record-breaking high school career and the fact that his dad was the Auburn signal caller in the mid-90s. If history is any indicator, this competition will go deep in the fall practice.

Return Of The Cadillac

A staple of Auburn football has always been a dominant, physical run game. That was the big missing piece of the offense last season and made the Tigers very predictable. Last season was the first season since 2008 that Auburn did not produce a 1,000-yard rusher. Jatarvious Whitlow was the most consistent runner of the group but keeping him in the lineup was an issue throughout the season due to injuries. Whitlow led the Tigers with 787 yards and six touchdowns with an average of 5.2 yards per carry. Shaun Shivers did show signs of being able to make the big play, but will need to more consistent to give Whitlow more help.

Gus Malzahn did make a change in the coaching staff with adding former Tiger great Carnell “Cadillac” Williams as running back coach to replace Tim Horton. Williams was part of one the great Auburn running back duos from 2001-2004 when he was paired with Ronnie Brown. As a player, Williams broke Bo Jackson’s career rushing touchdown record with 45 scores and had 3.831 yards. Auburn hopes that Williams can use what he did as a player. They are looking to get more out of the backs and get the running game back to form.

When Is Spring Practice?

Auburn will begin spring practice on March 18th, and the annual A-Day game will be played on April 13th with a 3 P.M. Central time kickoff at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Tickets for the game will be at a cost of $5.

 

The Cover Two with Phillip Jordan Podcast

This week former Auburn and Miami (OH) offensive lineman Jordan Diamond joined the show to talk about playing high school football in Chicago, his time at Auburn and Miami, what he is doing now, and more.

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