Auburn's running game was taken to a different level last season, once the decision was made to base the offense around the read-option element. During the final 10-games of the season, Auburn averaged 367-yards rushing per game. The first-half of the Arkansas game this past Saturday, revealed just how important Nick Marshall has become to the run-offense. After being held to 68-yards rushing during the first half without Marshall in the lineup, Auburn rushed for 234-yards against the Razorbacks with Nick Marshall inserted.
On this play Auburn has the ball at the Arkansas 19-yard line, facing a 2nd & 9. The Tigers come out in one of their base formations, which normally incorporates 3-WR's, 1-TE and 1-RB. Auburn intends to run their inside zone-read, which involves the "read" off the DT. At the snap, Nick Marshall will read the DT, who is left unblocked by Avery Young, who advances to the next level to engage a block.
If the DT plays the QB, Marshall will make the give to Cameron Artis-Payne to the perimeter. Should the DT crash down on the RB, Marshall will keep on the inside run. At the snap the DT plays the give to CAP, so Marshall keeps to run through a gaping hole. Patrick Miller drives the DE outside as Reese Dismukes directs the NT in the opposite direction. The MLB commits to the RB option, pulling himself out of position. Had he committed to the QB, Avery Young would have been in position to block him.
The play results in a 19-yard touchdown run.
This is the same play from the end zone view. This view shows how the WLB is pulled out of the picture because C.J. Uzomah is lined up on the line and WLB has coverage responsibility on the TE. Because the DT and MLB play the run-option to CAP, 3 defenders are basically taken out of the picture without a single block. Frame #3 reveals how difficult it was for the DT to make his decision because Marshall waits to the last split-second to pull the ball out.
Avery Young and C.J. Uzomah make key blocks at the next level to spring Nick Marshall into the end zone for the score. Auburn ran a variation of this play quite frequently with Cam Newton during the 2010 season. We rarely saw it last season with Nick Marshall, electing to spring Marshall on the perimeter with the outside read-option.
Having Marshall or Jeremy Johnson running inside more often this season, will be another stress factor for opposing defenses to consider.