Some fans keep commenting on Auburn needing to find an offensive identity, which is puzzling to comprehend. Auburn through 6 games is No. 21 nationally averaging 487-yards per game and No. 15, in scoring-offense, averaging 39 PPG. A team that is struggling to find it's offensive identity looks like Florida or Vanderbilt. They certainly don't look like a team that averages over 480-yards per game and nearly 40 PPG.
To put things in perspective, consider the following. From 1990-2013, only 13 of 288 SEC teams (4.5%) finished the season averaging over 480-yards per game. The Auburn run-offense, though not at the level of 2013 is still very good. AU has surpassed 200+ yards rushing in 5 of 6 games. Auburn can still run the football and people must realize 2013 was an exception to the rule. Since 1960, only 38 of 598 SEC teams averaged more than 260-yards rushing per game (6.3%). From 1990-2013, only 3 of 288 SEC teams (1%) averaged more than 260-yards rushing per game and only 1 averaged more than 300 (Auburn 2013).
Auburn is currently averaging 277.3 yards rushing in conference play, No. 1 in the SEC. Of the 302 SEC teams from 1990-2014, Auburn's current average of 262-yards rushing per game is the 6th best average during that time frame. Yes, Auburn isn't running the football like 2013 but it is far from being broke. Only 5 other teams have done it better than the 2014 Auburn Tigers among 302 SEC teams. The media talks about the powerful Arkansas running game currently averaging 256.9 yards per game but fail to mention only 163.2 yards per game in conference play.
Is everything perfect through 6 games? Nope but the coaches and players know this. Hopefully they were able to take advantage of this recent bye-week to make some fine adjustments on offense. There has been plenty of self-scouting and evaluation to become more consistent moving forward. I associate the words, "lack of identity" with being lost. Auburn isn't lost offensively. Are they having consistency issues stemming from poor execution? You bet.
The coaching staff came into this season wanting to generate more explosive plays in the pass-offense. They knew duplicating last year's rushing numbers was virtually impossible with the departures AU suffered in personnel loss. I believe the coaching staff wants to address a few issues of consistency, when it comes to execution but that is a far cry from lacking an offensive identity. Nothing has changed from a schematic point of view, when it comes to offensive goals. Malzahn wants to run the football (be physical) and have a vertical passing offense to compliment the running game.
Most of the breakdowns suffered on offense through 6 games has more to do with execution than player personnel. The Tigers are striving to be more physical up front and are having to deal with losing a starting guard (Alex Kozan) before the season began along with the early departure of Greg Robinson. The recent in jury to Patrick Miller resulted in another OL shuffle. This is why Braden Smith is now getting a look at the guard position. The coaches want more explosiveness at the RB position, so Roc Thomas will likely have an expanded role. This doesn't mean that Cameron Artis-Payne has been a failure. He is far from it, currently ranked No. 20 nationally in rushing. He is also on pace for a 1400+ yard season within a 13-game season. I cannot wait to see what Roc Thomas physically looks like next year with an off-season conditioning program under his belt. He certainly has the burst Tre Mason possessed. Ricardo Louis was not performing consistently so Quan Bray is getting more reps. I've heard comments that Gus Malzahn is too loyal or stubborn to make personnel changes. The examples I just listed is proof otherwise and there have been other changes during the first-half of the season. We have seen various rotations of the bigger WR's (Ray and Denson) and TE's to improve setting the edge and perimeter blocking. As for the quarterback position, I have no doubt the coaches will give Jeremy Johnson a shot if THEY feel Nick Marshall is not delivering at the level they want. Until that moment happens, I'm going to believe the coaches still have full confidence in their starting quarterback.
Through 6 games into 2014, Nick Marshall has a better TD-INT ratio than 2013. It was 6-4 last year and 10-3 this year. His ratio of impact plays in the passing-game is better in 2014 than 2013. Last season only 31% of his third-down passes resulted in a first down and this year it is 44%. With the same number of rush attempts through 6 games, Marshall is also gaining more yards per rush than 2013. Auburn's pass-offense through 6 games is currently No. 14 nationally in generating 1st downs or touchdowns and No. 24 in pass-efficiency. The only significant drop in his passing numbers has come on first-down. Marshall is completing 62% this season compared to 67% through 6 games into 2013.
I'm looking forward to see how Auburn responds this Saturday night against the Gamecocks. Last season the offense continued to improve after their bye-week, following the LSU defeat. Hopefully, we will see similar results this season.