The 2020 Auburn Tigers offense will return most of their skill position talent from the 2019 season. Last season the Tigers vastly improved on offense going from the 11th ranked offense in the SEC to the sixth best. They were also third in the conference in points scoring 33.2 a game. The big improvement was the run game going from 167.5 yards per game in 2018 to 199.1 this past season. The Tigers went from tenth in the SEC to fourth. While the team did improve, they do have several questions to answer during the off-season.
Many expectations hung on the shoulders of Bo Nix during his freshman season on the plains. While he made a lot of big plays for the Tigers that resulted in victories, he also left a lot of room for improvement. New Auburn offensive coordinator Chad Morris has a history of developing quarterbacks and will look to help Nix take that next step in his development. While at Clemson, Morris worked with both Tajh Boyd and Deshaun Watson during his freshman season. A big stat that needs to be improved by Nix is his completion percentage. In 2019 he completed 58% but was just 52% against ranked opponents.
On National Signing Day the news broke that Jatarvious Whitlow would be entering the transfer portal. Whitlow led the Tigers in rushing the previous two seasons and it came as quite a shock he would leave the program. Where do the Tigers go now? Fan favorite D.J. Williams should be the one that benefits from Whitlow leaving going into spring practice. Other names to look at will be the small but physical Shaun Shivers and incoming freshman Tank Bigsby. Bigsby is one of sixteen four-star recruits Auburn signed for the 2020 class and ranked fourth nationally among running backs. Gus Malzahn typically likes to find one back and finding that guy will be a key story-line in the spring and fall.
It has been a long time since Auburn has produced a 1,000-yard receiver. In fact, it was 1999 when Ronney Daniels accumulated 1,068 yards as a freshman. Seth Williams should be primed to end that drought with a more pass happy play-caller in Chad Morris. In his first two seasons Williams has caught 85 passes for 1,364 yards and 13 touchdowns. Returning with Williams is one of the fastest players in all of football in Anthony Schwartz. Schwartz had to deal with injuries to start the 2019 season but when healthy he is always a threat to take it the distance.
When looking at the 2020 signing class it is interesting that Auburn signed two four-star tight ends. The Tigers will bring in Brandon Frazier and Jeremiah Pegues to join John Samuel Shenker at a position that has not had much production in recent years. In the previous two seasons the Auburn tight ends have only totaled seven receptions. At Arkansas during that time under Chad Morris the Razorbacks had 85 receptions from the position. With Morris now as the offensive coordinator it would seem there is a new emphasis on the tight ends.
Of all the spots on the Auburn offense, the offensive line has been the one under the most scrutiny the last two seasons. Against top competition the Tigers have had a hard time running the ball and have directly impact what the passing game has or hasn’t done. The unit will only return one starter from the 2019 team in center Nick Brahms. Auburn will also have a new coach with J.B. Grimes stepping down and being replaced by Jack Bicknell, Jr. Bicknell spent the previous three seasons with Ole Miss and has had stints in the NFL with the Giants, Chiefs, Steelers, and Dolphins. The Tigers did add some depth to the offensive line by signing five players in the 2020 recruiting class.
What’s the Outlook?
Spring practice is just around the corner and there are several questions about the 2020 Auburn offense. There are also several answers with talented players returning to this team. If Auburn can get solid play from the offensive line, then rest will take care of itself.