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Found 65 results

  1. Depending on pending injuries or weather, I would expect the Auburn offense to play well against Wisconsin. Gus Malzahn has coached in 10 combined Bowl games and Conference Championships at the collegiate level. During those 10 games, his offense averaged 498.6 YPG and 39.9 PPG. His teams went 7-3 during those 10 outings. This includes 6 games at Auburn, where his offense averaged 518.8 YPG and 41.5 PPG. This includes a 5-1 mark at Auburn. Auburn will check in with Nick Marshall at QB, CAP at RB, along with Sammie Coates, Duke Williams and Quan Bray at WR. All five players will likely be playing their last game as an Auburn Tiger, motivated to put on a show one last time, wearing the orange and blue. This doesn't include the services of Chad Slade, Reese Dismukes, CJ Uzomah, Brandon Fulse and Corey Grant, who will also want to go out with a bang. During the last 26 games, the Auburn offense has averaged 496-yards and 38 PPG, along with 296-yards rushing per game. This also includes 80 offensive plays of 30+ yards and 253 plays of 15+ yards.
  2. Last night was a clear example of a team that has lost its focus primarily because of how the season has played out. It is much easier to dig down deep physically and mentally, when you have major goals to play for like 2013. This isn't the case this late into the 2014 season and it shows. This is not an excuse for the poor performance last night but this clearly isn't a motivated "team". There are some players who continue to play hard but not enough to make the difference. When Gus Malzahn arrived after the 2012 season, his biggest challenge would be teaching the players how to win again. The challenge now for the coaching staff is demanding the players to play hard all the time, no matter the opponent and record. The second challenge is more difficult than the first. Speaking of players who have not mailed in their performance. Cameron Artis-Payne is a baller and brings his lunchbox to every game. He is not a thriller or speedster but he is a player you want to go to battle with. He ran hard last night just as he has against better competition. Through 11-games, his totals are the 6th best rushing performance by an Auburn player based on yards per game, yards per rush and TD ratio. He has been Auburn's most consistent offensive player this season. What has happened to Corey Grant? His first 20 carries of the season (1st 2 games) produced 14 runs of 5-yards, 7 of 10-yards or more and 3 of 15 yards or more. He was never tackled for a loss and had only 4 carries of 2-yards or less.The remainder of the season he has only 31 carries. Of those 31 attempts, 13 went for 5+, 5 for 10+ and only 2 for 15+. Of his last 31 carries, 14 have gone for 2-yards or less and 6 went for a loss. I believe this is why we have seen less of him running the football. This is also why we have seen more of Ricardo Louis and Quan Bray on the perimeter runs. During the first 9 games of the season, 46.4% of Auburn's offensive snaps resulted in at least 5-yards. During the past 2 games, it has dipped down to 41.7%. Gus Malzahn's offense is built around success on first down. The HUNH aspect doesn't come into play until the first 1st down is made during a possession. Last season through 11 games, 29% of Auburn's first down plays netted 2-yards or less. This season it is 40% through 11 games. Who are the impact players on offense this season? CAP (22), Duke Williams (19), Nick Marshall (18), Sammie Coates (10) and Quan Bray (8). Last year through 11 games it was Marshall (21), Tre Mason (14), Sammie Coates (13), Corey Grant (13) and CAP (10). Last season through 11 games the Auburn offense scored 11 touchdowns on 17 possessions (64.7%) beginning on the opponent's side of the field. This season it is only 6 from 16 possessions (37.5%). In terms of the weekly "report card " features, this is how this year's team compares to last year's through 11 games. 2014 offense (74.5%) slightly up from 73.2% in 2013. This year's defense (52.7%) slightly down from last year's 55.5%. This year's special teams (55.4%) significantly down from last year's 71.4%. In terms of recent trends, the offense has a report card percentage of 55.6% during the last 3 games. The defense is 42.2% and special teams is 50.0%. Last season the Auburn run-offense converted 86.0% of their short-yardage situations of 2-yards or less to convert. This season it is down to 78.4%. During the first 7 games of the season Auburn averaged 10.7 PPG from their opponent's turnovers, while allowing the opponent to score 4.0 PPG from Auburn's turnovers. During the last 4 games, Auburn has scored zero points from their forced turnovers, while allowing 5.2 PPG from their miscues. That is basically an 11-point swing per game. In terms of penalty yardage per game, Auburn is currently No. 114 nationally compared to No. 30 last year. Auburn has surrendered 31 first downs on penalties alone or 2.8 per game. From 2004-2013, Auburn allowed an average of 21 per season or 1.6 per game. The 2013 and 2014 offense both produced 106 impact plays through 11 games. The difference is the 2013 offense had a combined 67 turnovers and penalties, while the 2014 offense has 93, offsetting their offensive production. During the first 5 games of the season the Auburn offense went "3 & out" only 16.1% of the time, while the defense forced a "3 & out", 45.0% of the time. During the last 6 games the offense is hitting at 23.2% and the defense has fallen to 20.0%. As any football season progress teams either improve or regress. Last season's team progressed as the season moved forward and this year's team has retreated. There are many valid reasons for the lack of production. Talent, depth, coaching, preparation, strength of schedule and senior leadership. After the Iron Bowl and headed into bowl preparation, the coaching staff needs to seriously look at themselves as well as the players coming back next season. It will be interesting to see just how much fight this team has left for the Iron Bowl and how the coaching staff schemes to give their players the best opportunity to compete. War Eagle!
  3. During Ole Miss Clipbit #1, we witnessed Malzahn adding options to plays previously called. Sticking with this theme, we will see a play Nick Marshall has gashed opponents with by running the football. This time around he utilizes a third option and makes a pass from the same play, rather than running the football. Of the adjustments made during the bye-week after the MSU loss, Nick Marshall appears to have benefited the most, closely followed by Cameron Artis-Payne. Prior to the final bye-week, Marshall had completed 55% of his passes for 7.4 yards per attempt. He has a QB rating of 138.4 during the first 6 games. During the last 2 games, Marshall has completed 75% of his passes for 10.9 yards per attempt. This has resulted in a QB rating of 188.6, making him one of the most efficient passers in the country. The play... During this play the Auburn offense has the ball at the Ole Miss 46-yard line (1st & 10). Once again Malzahn utilizes cross-buck action with Ricardo Louis coming in motion into the backfield for the speed-sweep look. Marshall will fake the sweep to the wide side and turn to Roc Thomas on the give to the boundary side. Marshall fakes the inside give to Thomas and darts to the perimeter. Previously the slot-WR would move laterally to pull the defender outside, creating a wide running lane for Marshall on the edge. Ole Miss has seen this on tape and elects to defend the edge and Nick Marshall. This opens up the third-option on this play, which is the pass to Quan Bray. Once 4 defenders commit to Marshall, the quarterback makes the pass to Quan Bray. Quan Bray hauls in the pass and heads down field for a gain of 20-yards and an Auburn first down. This play is beginning to become Auburn's base play on offense because it has so many options. There are 3 run-options off this play and multiple pass-options. Before the Bye-week, Nick Marshall was directly involved in an impact play, every 5.39 touches, better than Cam Newton's ratio during 2010 of 1 every 5.69. Since the recent bye-week, Marshall is hitting at 1 every 3.61 plays.
  4. Auburn's red zone performance this Saturday night just might be the biggest key of the game. Auburn obviously needs to be able to establish the run and protect the football but red zone offense and defense will likely dictate the outcome of the game against the Rebels. During Auburn's 5 games at home, the Tigers have scored 20 TD's from 22 red zone trips (91%). During their 2 road games, Auburn has scored 3 TD's from 9 trips to the red zone (33%). Basically the same average number of trips to the red zone playing at home and on the road but a huge difference in TD percentage. Overall Auburn is No. 9 nationally in red zone TD pct. They are No. 4 nationally playing at home and No. 119, playing on the road. The play... On this play Auburn has a 1st & goal from the Gamecock 8-yard line. Auburn shifts to a 2-back set before the snap to run their read-option with cross-buck action. At the snap Corey Grant will shoot to the left and Nick Marshall will fake the give to Cameron Artis-Payne to the right. The OLB plays the give to CAP, so Marshall keeps to sprint to his left. Once again the "spur" is faced with a 1 on 2 situation, with the slot-WR and Marshall coming to the edge. Nick Marshall fakes the pass-look to the slot-WR to keep the Spur committed to the receiver. Marshall follows behind Corey Grant, darting to the inside for an 8-yard touchdown run. Through 7 games Auburn is No. 11 nationally in yards per rush (5.96) inside the red zone. It breaks down to No. 7 nationally at home, averaging 6.6 yards per rush and No. 57 nationally on the road with a 4.09 average inside the red zone. The game likely comes down to Auburn's ability to run the football, protecting the football and red zone production. IMO, red zone production will be the biggest key because I believe Auburn will be able to run on the Rebels.
  5. One of the keys to offensive success against the Gamecocks was the use of 2-backs by the Auburn offense. The cross-buck action places stress on opposing defenses, especially with Nick Marshall as a third option. Defenses are forced to cover both edges as well as the middle. Gus Malzahn was able to compliment the outside runs with the inside power plays, which prevented the Gamecock defense from selling out at the point of attack. Look for Auburn to continue utilizing 2-back sets moving forward. The play... On this play Auburn has a 2nd & 4 at the South Carolina 37-yard line. The Tigers come out in a 2-back set with Roc Thomas and Corey Grant. At the snap Grant will shoot out of the backfield as Nick Marshall fakes the inside give to Thomas. The DE plays the inside run, allowing Marshall to sprint to the corner. The Spur (Star) for Gamecocks is forced to play the slot-WR and the QB. Marshall gives a pass-look, forcing the Spur to lock onto the WR. Nick Marshall turns up field and cuts back to the middle of the field. He is able to speed down field for 37-yards and a touchdown. Note how Corey Grant was not accounted for after leaving the backfield. This could turn into a pass-option later down the road.
  6. Ricardo Louis has recently struggled at times in the passing game but his speed is something Gus Malzahn wants to utilize. He only caught 1 pass against the Gamecocks for 7-yards but the Tigers utilized him in the running game and he gained 102-yards on just 3 carries. Two of his 3 runs resulted in impact plays as he was 1 of 9 different players involved in an impact play against South Carolina. The Play... On this play Auburn has a 1st & 10 from their own 25-yard line. Auburn will run their speed-sweep with Ricardo Louis. During the past few games, Corey Grant has been taken away on the perimeter. This was due to failing to set the edge and the tendency for Corey Grant to be utilized in this manner. Just before the snap, Louis comes in motion into the backfield. Because Nick Marshall has already rushed for 68-yards on 8 carries for 2 TD's at this point, the Gamecock defense must respect the possible inside run by Marshall. The brief hesitation by the defense is long enough for Louis to take the inside hand off, moving quickly towards the edge. Brandon Fulse and Sammie Coates set the edge by taking out the OLB and boundary safety. Cameron Artis-Payne now becomes the lead blocker on the play and will take out the CB. Louis turns the corner and sprints down field for a 75-yard touchdown. Auburn has 9 different players that have registered at least 3 impact plays through 7 games. Last year at this time Auburn only had 6 such players. The top-3 play-makers through 3 games: Duke Williams ................... 17 Cameron Artis-Payne ........ 16 Nick Marshall ..................... 15 Last season through 7 games: Nick Marshall ........................ 12 Tre Mason ............................. 9 Sammie Coates ...................... 8 Corey Grant ........................... 8
  7. I expected the game might be close at halftime with Auburn pulling away during the second-half, via their run-offense. With basically 3 weeks to prepare for the Auburn defense, I thought we would see some new wrinkles by the Gamecock offense but I did not expect Steve Spurrier to give his team every possible chance to make it a ball game. He took some major risks, when it came to the six fourth-down calls and onside-kick but it almost paid off for what he himself, stated would have been his biggest victory of coaching career. When South Carolina gambled on their first fourth-down play at their own 33-yard line, he made it clear his offense was going to let it all hang out. Auburn was expected to be able to run on the Gamecock defense, which is why they were nearly a 3-touchdown favorite to win the game. Spurrier minus a defense, basically gave his team every chance to win tonight, which is all can you ask of any great football coach. If not for their struggles inside the red zone and three turnovers, the Gamecocks would have been victorious in carrying out Spurrier's plan of attack against Auburn. Steve Spurrier deserves every word of praise he has received during his coaching career but has been far more likeable during his tenure at South Carolina than Florida. His teams have always been competitive but he was won more with coaching at South Carolina than he did at Florida. The Auburn offense carried the team tonight, which had the same kind of feel we witnessed during the 2013 season. The run-offense looked unstoppable against the Gamecocks and the defense made critical plays in situational play. This was the formula for success last season, especially during the big games. Not sure what Ellis Johnson can do at this point to establish a better pass-rush but rushing only three certainly is not the answering. There were times Johnson dialed up a late defender (4th rusher) just before the snap but their were 5-6 times during the game, Auburn only came with 3 pass-rushers period. This cannot be the case moving forward, especially against Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Alabama. Inside the Numbers: Cameron Artis-Payne had perhaps his best game of the season. He was quick to the hole and extremely physical, when it was needed the most. He now increases his rushing totals to 831-yards on the season, which could translate to a 1500-yard season in 13-games. Nick Marshall did a great job checking down to his shorter routes this week, taking what the defense was willing to give. He finished the night, 12 of 14 for 139-yards to go along with his 89-yards rushing and 4 touchdowns combined. Ricardo Louis is a big and fast, north and south offensive player. He has been inconsistent as a pass-catcher but I thought Malzahn did a great job of making his presence known this week. If not for the speed-sweeps this week, Louis would have been an afterthought on offense with 1 reception for 7-yards. By utilizing him in the perimeter run-offense, Louis finished with 102-yards rushing 3 carries, making a major impact in the outcome of the game. Opposing teams have taken away the Grant speed-sweeps so Malzahn brought it back with a change in personnel groupings. Kris Frost had a huge game against South Carolina. He finished the game with 14 stops of which 11 were solo tackles. The last time an Auburn LB had at least 11 solo tackles in a game was Travis Williams (2004) vs. Ole Miss. Eight different Auburn Tigers were involved in an impact play against the Gamecocks. This is amazing considering Auburn had only 8 offensive possessions during the game. The 8 offensive possessions was the fewest number of possessions by an Auburn offense during their last 278 games (1992-2014). Auburn has now extended their streak of 200-yard rushing games in conference play to 12 consecutive games (school record, previously 8-games). During Auburn's current school record of 12 consecutive 200-yard rushing games in the SEC, the Tigers have averaged 328.5 yards per game. What has possessing a mobile QB meant to the Auburn run-offense under Gus Malzahn? The 2010, 2013 and 2014 Auburn run offense has now averaged 317.7 yards rushing in 21 SEC games. Coming into tonight's game, South Carolina had allow their FBS opponents to rush for 6.3% more yardage than their opponent's season average. The Auburn run-offense rushed for 133.5% more than what the Gamecocks had allowed on an average this season. South Carolina averaged 7.63 yards per play during the first-half and 5.25 yards during the second-half. It was the sixth time out of 7 games the Auburn defense allowed fewer yards per play during the second-half, compared to the first-half. Of the 35 snaps defended by the Auburn defense during the first-half, 48.6% went for 2-yards or less. During the second-half, it was 54.9% of the 51 snaps defended. It was the 6th time out of 7 games, the Auburn defense held their opponent to higher percentage of 2-yard plays or less during the second-half. Auburn had 10 QB hurries, while allowing 3 and 7 tackles for loss to the 4 allowed. Last season Auburn had 13 interceptions from 493 passes defended (37.9). This season they have equaled their interception total in just 7 games, with 13 picks from 250 passes defended (1 every 19.2 attempts). I can only image what it might be with a better pass-rush. Last season through 7 games the Auburn offense generated 66 impact plays. This season they have 75. Brandon Fulse came into the Gamecock game with 4 career receptions for 25-yards and 0 TD's. Fulse recorded his first TD of his career and his fist impact-play of his career. Against Mississippi State, Auburn was 11 of 20 passing within 10-yards of the line of scrimmage for 102-yards. Against the Gamecocks, Auburn went 10 of 10 for 105-yards. Since 1992 Auburn is now 139-10-1, when scoring on at least 33% of their offensive possessions. This includes a record of 41-3 under Gus Malzahn. Auburn has now scored 75-points from their forced-turnovers, while allowing 28 from their own miscues. During the first 2 conference games of the season, Auburn was 4 of 8 in situations of 2-yards or less needed to convert. During the last 2 conference games, Auburn is 10 of 13. Final Thoughts... It would be easy to be concerned about Auburn's remaining games based on the Tigers defensive performance against the Gamecocks. Before going into a full blown panic attack, consider the outcome of games through 8 weeks into the season. We saw South Carolina demolished by Texas A&M, yet the Gamecocks gave Georgia their only loss thus far. Alabama came close to losing to Arkansas but defeated Texas A&M by 59-points the following week. Auburn crushed LSU, 41-7 yet the Bengal-Tigers defeated Ole Miss, Auburn's next opponent. Auburn defeated Arkansas by 24, who lost in overtime to A&M. Though the Aggies blew out the Gamecocks, Auburn held on for dear-life to get past South Carolina. There is no way to accurately predict the outcome of any conference game based on the outcome of previous games. Despite their poor defensive performance against the Gamecocks, Auburn remains in position to reach all their preseason team-goals. The defense will certainly need to play much better next Saturday against Ole Miss but every team in the Southeastern Conference has shown some form of weakness this season, including undefeated Mississippi State. I do believe Ellis Johnson has explored every possible option to improve the DL, which means Auburn will need to make plays inside the red zone, while continuing their trend to forcing turnovers. The run-defense and secondary appear to be the strength of the defense but the lack of pass-rush is likely to catch up with the Tigers again. Hopefully the Auburn defense can continue to perform better as the game progresses. Regardless of Auburn's deficiencies this season, Auburn can still run their remaining schedule by making plays at critical moments of the game. What Auburn can not afford is the self-inflicted wounds we have seen, regarding turnovers. The match ups between Auburn and Ole Miss projects a close game, likely to be low-scoring. Turnovers and miscues can turn any close game into a blowout. Auburn's offense appears to have taken a step-forward from the bye-week but the same cannot be said about the defense. Though I suspect Auburn's defense is better than how they performed against the Gamecocks, they simply cannot afford to allow Bo Wallace to throw the football without any pressure. Auburn faced a South Carolina team, willing to let it all hang out because the Gamecocks had their backs to the wall. Ole Miss losing to LSU has forced the Rebels into a must-win situation and they are a much more physical and talented team on defense. Auburn and Ole Miss can not afford another conference loss or face possible elimination in the conference race to Atlanta. The time has come for the Auburn coaches and players to take a page out of the Steve Spurrier book and play like there is no tomorrow, with minimum wiggle room to win a championship. War Eagle!
  8. Since 1990 a first down by the Auburn offense has been worth 1.43 points. Since Nick Marshall became the starting quarterback he has accounted for 75 first downs running the football alone. In basically 17 games, Nick Marshall has provided Auburn an extra 7-points per game from just his running ability. He established himself as a major component of the run-offense last season but he's become a better passer in 2014. His dynamic ability at the quarterback position has made the Auburn offense very difficult to defend. Last season Nick Marshall was responsible for an impact play (15+ yds) every 6.2 snaps. Not to far off the mark of 1 every 5.7 plays by Cam Newton during 2010. This season through 5 games, Marshall has a ratio of 1 every 5.1 plays, better than Newton's Heisman season. Last season Marshall was directly involved in 38.7% of Auburn's first downs and this season it has increased to 42.3%. No doubt he is the heart of the offense this season, where as Tre Mason was the heart of the offense in 2013. Against LSU, Gus Malzahn opened up the offense and Nick Marshall had one of the best games of his career. Of Auburn's amazing 16 impact plays against LSU, Marshall was involved in 11 of them. The play... On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 9 from the LSU 29-yard line. On occasion you will hear Nick Marshall go with a hard count to make the opposing defense tip their hat to their pressure and coverage. This was the case on this play, resulting in an audible being called from the sideline. Auburn checks into a quarterback draw from a 4-WR look. At the snap Nick Marshall sets up like he is going to pass just before he takes off up the middle of the field. Cameron Artis-Payne releases out of the backfield into the flat to pull the lone LB at the second level. LSU has the other LB coming on a blitz. Just as Marshall approaches the LSU 20-yard line, he is faced with 2 defenders. He makes a hard cut to his right, faking out both tacklers. Once around the 2 would be tacklers, Marshall sprints towards the end zone taking one defender with him into the end zone for the score. The play was eerily similar to Cam Newton's Heisman moment run against LSU in 2010. Second time is the charm... Later against LSU, Auburn calls another quarterback-draw. This time around Auburn has a 1st & 10 from their own 40-yard line. Once again the Tigers come out in a 4-WR look. At the snap Nick Marshall drops as if to pass and Corey Grant releases out of the backfield just before Marshall takes off up the middle. This time around the MLB manages to recover, forcing Marshall to cut to his right towards the sideline. To Corey Grant's credit, he sets up to wall off the MLB pursuing Marshall from behind. Grant makes the key block that allows Marshall to get up the sideline for a 15-yard gain and an Auburn first down. Grant was not initially assigned to block on this play, acting as a decoy out of the backfield. By remaining active in the play, Grant makes a key block to assist on another impact play. Look for Nick Marshall to play a key role in Auburn's game-plan against Mississippi State. He will likely have more of a role getting out on the edge rather than attacking between the tackles as he did against LSU. Marshall had a great passing game against the Bulldogs last season and hopefully will provide an encore performance this Saturday.
  9. After carrying the ball 10 times during each of the first 2 games, Corey Grant's rush attempts have dropped to an average of 6 per game during Auburn's last 3 games. Though Grant was never intended to be the featured RB, I do believe it is important to have him involved in the offensive game plan. Because of his ability to go the distance from anywhere on the field, he should have at least 10 offensive touches per game. It will be interesting to see what his role will be this week against Mississippi State. It will likely be difficult to run between the tackles so Grant could be a key contributor on the edge and in the passing game. Auburn needs to get Grant out in space to increase his opportunity to generate explosive plays. The play... On this play Auburn will run a toss-sweep to Grant at the LSU 12-yard line. Auburn came out in this formation from their sugar-huddle with Nick Marshall under center. Auburn breaks the huddle and snaps the ball quickly to get Corey Grant on the edge as soon as possible. The key to the play is the blocking of Melvin Ray and Quan Bray on the edge and Brandon Fulse as the lead-blocker. Corey Grant does a great job of cutting the play back inside rather than attempting to race towards the sideline. By cutting back inside, Grant has a shorter path to the end zone. Grant darts into the LSU end zone behind Shon Coleman for a 12-yard TD run. During Grant's last 18 carries, 10 have been held to 2-yards or less, including 4 tackles for loss. During his first 20 carries of the season, Grant produced 7 runs of 10-yards or more. He has only 4 during his last 18 rushes. Blocking on the perimeter has been inconsistent this season and something Auburn needs to improve upon.
  10. We often see Gus Malzahn overload the point of attack in the running game to obtain an edge in numbers. Auburn will pull both guards on the buck-sweep to out number defenders on the edge. In this case Gus Malzahn overloads the perimeter to set up a pass to Cameron Artis-Payne. Once again the design of the play is to out number the defenders at the point of attack. The play... On this play Auburn faces a 2nd & 10 from their own 33-yard line. Auburn comes out in a tight formation with Sammie Coates as the only receiver lined up wide. At the snap Cameron Artis-Payne slips out of the backfield as Nick Marshall fakes the give to Corey Grant, who fakes the sweep to the left. Sammie Coates will run a deep vertical route pulling the CB and safety over top with him down field. This clears the sideline for Cameron Artis-Payne running a short wheel-route near the sideline. Corey Grant also releases out into the flat and is picked up by the OLB. Marshall technically has a 3-route read stacked over one another. Because the CB and safety double up on Coates, it leaves the OLB responsible for both backs releasing out of the backfield on the same side. CAP runs a deeper route than Grant. If the OLB picks up CAP, Grant is wide open for the check down. It was a nicely designed play, which resulted in a 19-yard gain and an Auburn first-down.
  11. You know there are high expectations when your team wins by 28, yet there are numerous concerns moving forward. Four games into the season and Auburn is 4-0 on the season but that was expected to be the case before the 2014 season began. Auburn now moves into the heart of their schedule and we are about to see what this team is truly made of beginning this upcoming Saturday as the Tigers play host to visiting LSU. The defense is playing well but there are question marks concerning the offense and the kicking-game. Coach Dameyune Craig was hoping for some of the Auburn receivers to step up other than Duke Williams and Sammie Coates before the season began, so it was a pleasant surprise to see senior Quan Bray make a statement against Louisiana Tech. He basically turned in a game-changing performance in what was a close ball game until he began to make his impact felt. His performance is what you wish seniors to deliver and he delivered in a big way. He recorded 3 touchdowns on the day and all three were needed to generate the separation Auburn needed to put away the Bulldogs. Except for the injuries and a couple of big plays, the defense delivered another solid performance. Auburn continued to be sturdy on run-defense and came up with a couple of big turnovers. These are trends this season Auburn must continue to navigate through their upcoming beast of a schedule. The offense continued to sputter in the running game but at least came up with several big-plays, something they could not deliver against Kansas State. Gus Malzahn is still searching for Auburn to be more physical at the point of attack, which will be desperately needed in the next games. Inside the Numbers... After beginning the season with a 100% conversion rate on third-downs during the first quarter of the first two games, Auburn has now gone 0 for 7 during the last two games during the first quarter. This slow start offense must be addressed. During the last 2 games, Cameron-Artis Payne and Corey Grant have rushed for an average of 3.77 yards per rush on 58 combined attempts. After giving up only 2 plays of 30-yards or more during the first 3 games, Auburn's defense surrendered 3 against La. Tech. Prior to Saturday's game against La. Tech, Quan Bray had 1 career offensive play of 30-yards or more (Miss State 2013). He recorded 2 such plays on offense against Louisiana Tech. In terms of consistency, here is the percentage of offensive plays of at least 5-yards through 4 games. 50.0% against Arkansas, 52.1% against San Jose State, 31.6% against Kansas State and 51.4% against La. Tech. Last season through 4 games, Auburn's offense gained at least 5-yards on 45.0% of their offensive snaps, while allowing the opponent to gain at least 5-yards on 44.0% of their snaps. This season the Auburn offense is hitting at 46.0% and the defense is at 37.1%. Louisiana Tech is the first team to gain more yards per play during the second-half than the first-half against the 2014 Auburn defense. For the season, Auburn has allowed 5.2 yards per play during the first-half and 3.8 yards per play during the second-half. Through 4 games, 52.4% of the snaps defended by the Auburn defense has been held to 2-yards or less. Last year through 4 games, it was 46.0%. Auburn currently gains at least 5-yards on first-down, 46.9% of the time. Last season through 4 games it was 45.6%. The 2013 offense closed out the last 10 games, gaining at least 5-yards on first-down, 53.7% of the time. Auburn has 16 impact run-plays and 22 impact-pass plays through 4 games. Last season it was 13 run-lays and 17 pass-plays through the first 4 games of the season. Nick Marshall has converted 48.2 percent on third-down, throwing the football this season. Last year through 4 games it was 34.5 percent. Last season through 4 games the Auburn offense began an offensive possession on the opponent's side of the field, 5.7% of the time. This season it is up to 18.4%, which will be a major factor for success if this continues. Auburn has scored 40% of the time beginning a possession on their side of the field and 89% on the opponent's side of the field. Last season the Auburn defense finished the season ranked No. 62 in pass-efficiency defense. This season they are currently No. 24 nationally. Nick Marshall is currently 11 of 32 (34.4%) throwing beyond 10-yards of the line of scrimmage. Jeremy Johnson is 9 of 12 (75.0%). 43.0% of Cameron Artis-Payne's carries have netted at least 5-yards and 12.8% have gone for at least 10-yards. Tre Mason through 4 games hit 5-yards 46.2% of the time and 10-yards or more 13.8% of the time. Auburn run-defense has allowed 3.16 yards per rush during the first-half and 1.95 yards during the second-half. Of Auburn's 24 scoring drives this season, 20 of them have involved at least 1 impact play during the possession. This season facing 2-yards or less to convert, Auburn's offense is 19 of 23 running he football (82.6%). Last season through 4 games it was 20 of 26 (76.9%) and 82.9% for the entire season. 62.2% of Auburn's offensive snaps have been part of a scoring drive. Only 26.2% of the opponent's snaps have been part of a scoring drive. Last season through 4 games it was 49.5% on offense and 33.1% on defense. Moving forward... Plenty of concern by Auburn fans about the offense and some of it is clearly valid. It all starts up front with the offensive line as well as perimeter blocking. Production on first down has slightly declined this season, which is the origin of the subsequent offensive woes. Last season Auburn averaged 6.7 yards per play, running the ball on first down. This season it is 5.6 yards, which is still respectable but not as dominating as 2013. The primary concern in my opinion is the lack of production during the first quarter of the last 2 games. A slow start to Gus Malzahn's offense is rarely a good sign and something the Tigers must address with LSU coming to town this Saturday. The good news is that the defense is playing well enough to keep Auburn in every game. It's no longer that feeling of having to score at least 30 points every game to have an opportunity to win. Ellis Johnson's defensive unit has made major strides this season and are obviously way ahead of the 2013 version during the first 4 games of the season. Tackling is much better and the Tigers are forcing more turnovers. Run-defense has been solid but they still lack a consistent pass-rush without blitzing. With that being said, the improvement on the defensive side of the football makes up for the inconsistency on the offensive side. Overall, Auburn is still a very dangerous team, capable of beating anyone on their current schedule. As fans we would be more excited about the prospects of the remainder of the season if the offense was hitting on all cylinders. Regardless of the sputtering moments on offense the past two weeks, there is still valid reasons to be excited about the unit's potential. There is still plenty of talent in a system designed to generate explosive plays. Only time will tell if this team can live up to its potential but I expect plenty of excitement as we witness the growth of the 2014 Auburn Tigers. Is this a team of championship quality? I still believe so but the schedule will severely test this Auburn team more so than the 2013 squad. Keep the faith and watch our young men compete to be the best in the conference once again. War Eagle!
  12. One area Auburn needs drastic improvement upon is their pass-offense on first-down. Auburn is currently No. 117 nationally, completing only 50 percent of their passes on first-down. One of the reasons for the low percentage is the type of passes being thrown on first down. Auburn has thrown a higher number of vertical passes on first down this season, which has resulted in a low completion percentage. Note that Auburn has run fewer WR screens than we normally see in a Gus Malzahn pass-offense. Auburn is currently No. 45 nationally, averaging 6.52 yards per play on first down. We all know how vital first-down is, when it comes to Malzahn wanting to push the tempo. The Play... On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 8 from their own 36-yard line. Auburn comes out in a tight formation with a 3-WR set. Because of the tight formation, Kansas State has 7 defenders inside the box. Corey Grant motions across the backfield before the snap. At the snap, Nick Marshall fakes the screen pass to Grant and fakes the end-around give to Ricardo Louis. Note how the LB's are focused on the movement and fake to Corey Grant. After the fake end-around to Louis, Ricardo Louis slips out of the backfield into the flat. Marshall has thrown deep from this formation and play but elects to check down to the swing -pass to Louis. Louis has 1 man to beat in the flat and he out-races the LB to the first down marker. Needing 8-yards, Ricardo Louis picks up 9-yards. Because of the multiple fakes, this isn't a play you want to run often because it is slow to develop. One way to counter the defensive fronts selling out to stop the run are screens and swing passes to stretch defenses horizontally. Players like Corey Grant and Ricardo Louis are exceptional in space and these type plays will improve the completion percentage.
  13. Corey Grant has become more of an intricate part of the offense this season and he is making the most of his opportunity. Of course this has always been the case for Grant, who has proven to be dedicated on and off the field. Though he has only 95 career carries, Grant has made the most of them, averaging a whopping 8.97 yards per rush. This includes an average of 9.57 yards per carry in Gus Malzahn's offense. Of his 95 career rush attempts, 38.9% have resulted in a first down and 31.6% have been gains of 10-yards or more. This season he has proven to be a solid performer running between the tackles. The play... On this play Auburn has a 1st & 10 from their own 40-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 4-WR set. The 4-WR set includes "trips" to the wide side. Because Auburn runs the ball 76% of the time on first down, the San Jose State has 8 defenders aligned to the boundary side. This opens up the wide side of the field for a perimeter sweep. At the snap Nick Marshall recognizes the LB's over top are playing the inside keep by the quarterback so he hands off to Corey Grant. Marcus Davis does a great job sealing the OLB as long as he can as D'haquille Williams walls off the safety to create a running lane on the edge for Corey Grant. It doesn't take long for Grant to the turn corner and sprint up field for an 18-yard gain and an Auburn first down. Grant is currently averaging 88-yards per game on 8.8 yards per rush. He is on pace for a 1000-yard season and is Auburn's No. 4 player in generating impact plays on offense.
  14. Through 2 games into the season, the Auburn offense is one of the best in the nation, when it comes to Redzone offense. The Tigers have scored on 11 of 11 opportunities and more importantly, 10 of the 11 possessions have been touchdowns. Auburn was very efficient inside the redzone last season, scoring on 54 of 61 opportunities. This included a touchdown in 44 of the 54 scoring drives. The play... During this play Auburn faces a 3rd & goal from the San Jose State 4-yard line. The Tigers come out in their Wildcat set in an unbalanced line. Before the snap the ball, Corey Grant motions into the backfield on a Jet-sweep action. This freezes the defense because of the run-option with Grant. Ricardo Louis is lined up in the backfield (H-back) and will slide out of the backfield at the snap. Nick Marshall play-actions with Grant, making a half-roll to his right. The Spartans rush a LB off the edge but Marshall is able to loft a pass over his head to a wide open Ricardo Louis in the end zone. C. J. Uzomah is also a pass-option on the play, as he runs a crossing route deeper in the end zone. One of the reasons why Louis was wide open on the play is because Auburn "sugar huddles" before the play. This is where the OL comes to the line of scrimmage, while the skill players huddle. When the skill players exit the huddle, they race to their positions and immediately snap the ball. This will sometimes cause alignment issues for the opposing defense and limits the time for the defense to obtain a good presnap read. This is a tactic the Auburn offense has utilized quite a bit the past 2 seasons.
  15. The Auburn Tigers dominated the Spartans, 59-13 to move to 2-0 on the season. The Tigers were 31-point favorites over San Jose State and easily covered the spread despite having issues in their vertical passing game. The defense played very well except for 2 big plays allowed during the game as the front-7 had a solid game against the Spartans. The good news is that Auburn came out of the game without any major injuries with 12 days to prepare for their first road game of the season. Auburn's front-7 played much better this week and it was good to see Kris Frost rebound from a shaky performance against the Razorbacks. Auburn's pass defense had a solid performance minus the 75-yard touchdown surrendered early in the game. San Jose State attempted 32 passes against the Tigers. Auburn recorded 4 sacks, 3 picks and 11 quarterback hurries. Quan Bray is off to a great start this season, averaging 28.7 yards per return through 2 games. Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant continued to play well for the second week in a row, establishing themselves as a great 1-2 punch from the RB position. Dating back to last season, the duo has combined for 1722-yards rushing on 219 carries for 17 touchdowns. This includes a whopping average of 7.86 yards per rush. Inside the Numbers: Auburn had 10 tackles for loss, while allowing only 2. Auburn struggled with their vertical pass-offense, completing only 3 of 10 passes past 10-yards of the line of scrimmage for 59-yards. The Auburn pass-offense was 3 of 9 passing on first down for 26-yards. Their 57.6 rating on first down was the 25th worst passing performance on first down in Auburn's last 273 games. During Steve Spurrier's first 56 games at Florida, his offense averaged 451.6 yards per game on 6.07 yards per play, while scoring 35.3 PPG. Gus Malzahn's first 56 games at Auburn has netted 448.3 yards per game on 6.52 yards per play and 35.7 PPG. Auburn targeted 8 different players in the passing game with D'haquille Williams leading the way, 5 times for 3 receptions. Through 2 games the Auburn has converted 100% of their third-downs during the first quarter, 50% during the second, 60% during the third and 71.4% during the fourth quarter. Auburn converted 7 of 8 third-down situations running the football against the Spartans. Last week the Auburn defense failed to force any third and 10+ situations. This week against San Jose State, they forced 7 such situations, only allowing 1 conversion. Auburn's third-down defense generated 2 picks and 3 sacks tonight. Auburn's 3 interceptions against the Spartans was only the 5th time in the last 89 games, Auburn has picked 3 or more passes in one game. Gus Malzahn has now fielded (43) 100-yard rushers during his 56 games at Auburn. Through 2 games, 51.0% of Auburn's offensive snaps has resulted in 5-yards or more and the opponent had been held to 33.6%. Through 2 games the Auburn defense has allowed 6.12 yards per play during the first half and only 3.13 yards during the second half. Through 2 games the Auburn defense has held their opponent to 2-yards or less on 43.8% of their first-half snaps and 60.9% during the second-half. Cameron Artis-Payne has 289-yards on 42 carries for 4 TD's through 2 games (6.9 YPC) Tre Mason had 172-yards on 29 carries for 2 TD's through 2 games in 2013 (5.9 YPC). Earlier this week I expressed the need for Auburn's offense to have more opportunities to play on a short field. The Tigers had only 4 possessions beginning on the opponent's side of the field during their last 71 possessions prior to San Jose State. Auburn's offense was given 3 possessions beginning on the Spartan's side of the field and they cashed all three opportunities into touchdown drives. 37 of the 62 combined carries by Corey Grant and Cameron-Artis Payne have netted at least 5-yards (59.6%). Last season Grant and Tre Mason hit at 53.3% through 2 games into the season. Through 2 games Auburn's defense has allowed 4.35 yards per rush during the first-half and only 1.00 yards during the second-half. Of Auburn's 14 scoring drives this season, 67.6% of the plays have been on the ground. Last season it was 74.0% for the entire season. Last week against Arkansas, Auburn was 2 of 4 running the ball with only 2-yards needed to convert. This week against San Jose State, Auburn was 10 of 11. Last week Auburn's front-7 totaled 25 tackles. This week they recorded 44. Through 2 games Auburn has turned the ball over 3 times, resulting in zero points. Auburn's defense has forced 5 turnovers, resulting in 28 points for the Tigers. Final Words: Though it was disappointing to see the pass-offense struggle, it is way too early to panic at this point. Auburn's run-offense appears to be as strong as last season. Last season through 2 games the pass-offense had a pass-rating of 128.6. This season it has improved to 166.3 through 2 games. Sammie Coates being out of the lineup, likely set the pass-offense back against San Jose State. There is no doubt there is plenty of room for improvement but Auburn remains one of the most difficult offenses to defend in the country. Once Auburn built a substantial lead against the Spartans, the team lost a little focus but that is to be expected when competing against a lesser opponent. The coaching staff will take full advantage of the extra prep-time to have the team ready for Kansas State in 12 days. Gus Malzahn has raised the fan's expectations of offense to a higher level. 400-yard and 30-point games are not enough, nor is 200-yards rushing. Through 56 games, his offense has averaged 256.7 yards rushing and 448.3 yards per game. This includes a pass-rating of 150.0 and 35.7 PPG. How wonderful it is to be spoiled. The coaching staff is attempting to take the same approach they did last season, when it comes to taking it one game at a time with the goal of becoming better each week. The challenge becomes more difficult as the wins roll in and the opponent places a target on Auburn's back. We as fans and supporters of Auburn University might be wise to take the same approach. Enjoy each game and try not to stress over the little things. The team is still playing well overall and the coaches continue to obtain the most of their existing personnel. War Eagle and Beat Kansas State!
  16. One of my favorite plays from the Arkansas game was Auburn's delay draw or what I refer to as a slip-draw. Like many plays Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee call, it is designed to freeze the defense, utilizing misdirection. The exchange or hand off takes place on one side of the backfield but the play normally funnels in the opposite direction. The play... On this down, Auburn faces a 2nd & 3 from the Razorback 15-yard line. Auburn will execute their version of the draw play, featuring Cameron Artis-Payne. Note in frame #2, at the time of the exchange, there are 5 defenders on that side of the hash. (The safety over top makes player #5 but he is out of view) The formation with 2-WR's on that side along with the H-Back, forces the defense to overload that side. When Jeremy Johnson takes the snap, he makes a quick half-roll to his right as CAP takes 1 step to his right before taking the delayed hand off from Johnson. The defense has to respect the edge Johnson is rolling to in the event it is a play-action pass or Johnson elects to keep and run. This split second, when the hand off is being made freezes the defense. Once CAP takes the hand off he steps inside before countering back to the left. Shon Coleman drives the DE outside as Reese Dismukes & Avery Young wall off any backside pursuit. Chad Slade moves to the next level to take out the OLB. The other 2 LB's were caught up in the wash from playing the hash mark side Johnson rolled to before the hand off. CAP quickly cuts back inside through the "A" gap, darting into the end zone for a touchdown. The play was called back on a face mask penalty called on Patrick Miller. Auburn found great success almost every time they called this play with CAP as well as Corey Grant.
  17. The Auburn Tigers kicked off the season with a 45-21 victory that was a tale of two halves. Auburn jumped out to a 21-7 lead, only to see the Razorbacks rally to tie the game at 21 by halftime. The Tigers played an inspired second-half, dominating the Hogs, 24-0 during the final two quarters. As well as Jeremy Johnson performed during the first half, it was the return of Nick Marshall that opened up the Tigers powerful run assault. The second-half performance of the Auburn defense marked the first time since the 2011 Florida game, Auburn shutout their conference opponent, during the final two quarters of the game. Auburn extended their record to 83-5 since 1981, when scoring at least 14 points during the first quarter. The Tigers also extended their current scoring record, which is now 11 consecutive games of 30 points or more, dating back to the 2013 season. The previous stretch of 30-point games came during the 1994 season, when Auburn had 8 consecutive games of 30-points or more. It appears Auburn will have another stellar offense this season but there are a few question marks regarding the defense. Special teams had a solid performance against the Razorbacks and it will be interesting to see how much this team improves as the season progresses. I do believe it is safe to say, Auburn's offense will give them a chance to beat anyone in the country in 2014. After week No. 1, it is way too early to begin placing labels on any team in the conference. Teams are often not as bad or good as they initially appeared. We won't observe true "team identities" until a few games into the season. LSU was a prime example of a team that looked hideous during the first 3 quarters against Wisconsin but looked like a typical LSU squad during the final period. As for Auburn, the Tigers are where they should be on offense with plenty of potential on defense and special teams. Inside the Numbers: Auburn converted 57.1 percent of their third-downs during the first-half and 71.4 percent during the second-half. The defense held Arkansas to 25.0 percent during the first-half and 16.7 percent during the second-half. This is a wonderful trend, which hopefully carried over from 2013. Cameron Artis-Payne recorded the 41st 100-yard rushing performance during the Gus Malzahn offensive era at Auburn. 50 percent of Auburn's 70 offensive snaps netted at least 5-yards, while Arkansas hit at 40.0 percent. The Razorbacks averaged 7.6 yards per play during the first half and only 2.4 yards per play during the second half. The Razorbacks recorded 6 impact plays on offense during the first half but was held to just 2 during the second half. (Impact plays = 15+ yards) 34.3 percent of the Razorbacks offensive snaps were held to 2-yards or less during the first half, increasing to 68.0 percent during the second half. D'haquille Williams led the Auburn offense with 5 of Auburn's 14 impact plays on offense. The former JUCO standout was targeted 9 times during the game, making good on all 9 passes thrown his way. From 1981-2014, Auburn is now 134-9-1, when scoring on 33 percent of their offensive possessions. Auburn scored on 50 percent of their possessions against the Razorbacks, increasing Auburn's record to 62-0, when scoring on at least 50 percent of their possessions. The combination of Auburn's quarterbacks were lethal against the Razorbacks. Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall combined for a pass rating of 233.6 on first down and 232.5 on third down. Auburn lost the tackle for loss battle to the Razorbacks, 6 to 5. Auburn recorded only 1 sack against the Razorbacks but did have 9 QB hurries. The Auburn pass-offense was extremely efficient in their intermediate to deep routes. The Tigers were 8 of 12 for 233-yards. One of the incomplete passes was a dropped TD pass by Sammie Coates from Nick Marshall. Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant combined for 3.8 yards per rush with Jeremy Johnson as the quarterback. During the second half, Thunder and Lightning averaged 10.9 yards per rush with Nick Marshall at quarterback. 50 percent of CAP's 26 carries went for at least 5-yards but he was tackled for a loss on 3 occasions. After surrendering 267-yards of offense during the first half, the Auburn defense held Arkansas to just 61-yards during the second half. The secondary accounted for 50 percent of Auburn's tackles. The front-7 must become more active, which was the case during the second half. Auburn surrendered 151-yards rushing during the first half and only 2-yards on the ground during the second half. Auburn was 3 of 6 in situations of 2-yards or less to convert. The Tigers were 2 of 4 running and 1 of 2 passing. The two failed 3rd & 1 run-plays is something that should be addressed . Both teams had one turnover but Auburn converted their forced-turnover into a TD, which was a major momentum swing for the Tigers during the third quarter. The game plan against Arkansas with Jeremy Johnson was to attack vertically and the plan was successful. If not for the first half collapse by the defense, Auburn could have dominated earlier in the game. Full credit goes to the Razorbacks offensive line and running backs, for making the first half and extremely competitive game. In the future it will be interesting to see how the offense looks, when Johnson is allowed to run the football. He is not the same caliber of runner as Nick Marshall but he is certainly athletic enough to move the chains. Each year brings a new personality for the team. Despite having plenty of returning personnel, the 2014 team will not have the same personality as the 2013 squad. The opening game revealed an explosive offense by ground or air and a defense that played better as the game wore on. If this becomes the trend for the 2014 season, Auburn will be a very difficult team to contend with down the road. War Eagle! Photo: Wesley Sinor
  18. A primary area to watch for in 2014, when it comes to the Auburn offense will be their ability to run inside and throw over the top (over the LB's). Late in the 2013 season, opposing teams began to defend the edge to defend the running game to limit the damage caused by the Auburn running game.The following numbers will explain why... Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne accounted for 408 carries last season. Nick Marshall, Corey Grant and Ricardo Louis accounted for 257carries. Mason and CAP accounted for a 10+ yard run every 6.1 carries, while Marshall, Grant and Louis did it every 3.5 attempts. Mason and CAP accounted for a 20+ yard run every 25.5 attempts, while Marshall, Grant and Louis did it every 11.7 carries. Mason and CAP accounted for a 30+ run every 58.3 attempts, while Marshall, Grant and Louis did it every 19.8 attempts. Auburn was more likely to pop a big run on the edge than between the tackles, which is why opposing defenses were more concerned about the edge, willing to take their chances inside. Tre Mason was a consistent and reliable performer running between the tackles last season with 45 percent of his carries netting at least 5-yards. Will Cameron Artis-Payne and Peyton Barber be able to be as productive in 2014? Auburn's ability to run inside and pass over the top, will prevent defenses from out-manning Auburn on the edge or make them pay for it, when they do.
  19. Last season Corey Grant had a limited role in the Auburn offense when it came to actual touches. Grant carried the ball just 66 times during the 2013 season and caught 4 passes. He played in all 14 games during the past season but was limited to 5 carries or less during 9 games. With the departure of Tre Mason, look for Grant's role in the offense to likely expand in 2014. Though he had less than 70 carries during 2013, Grant made the most of his opportunities. He averaged nearly 10-yards per rush and scored 6 rushing touchdowns. 14.8% of Tre Mason's rush attempts went for 10-yards or more. Cameron Artis-Payne produced 10+ yard rushes, 20.9% of the time. Corey Grant checked in at 34.8% with 23 of his 66 carries resulting in at least 10-yards. The Play... During the 2014 A-Day game, Corey Grant was limited to just 5 carries but once again made the most of his offensive touches. Grant finished the game with 128-yards rushing, including the above 54-yard run for a touchdown. The play is a speed-option, which quickly gets Grant on the edge and up the field. The play is a perfect display of his game-changing speed and his ability to get north & south very quickly. C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse are key on the play, creating a running lane for Grant to explode down the side line. At one point, it appears the CB and safety on the wide side of the field had the angle to make the play on Grant but Grant's speed allowed him to split the final two defenders. Once Grant makes it to the secondary, there are very few defenders in the country that possess the speed to to catch him.
  20. We often judge quarterbacks based on their completion percentage but it doesn't always tell the true story of just how accurate a quarterback is. When Rhett Lashlee speaks of improving Marshall's accuracy, he is primarily speaking of Nick's accuracy throwing down field. Is it true they would like to see him with a 65-70 pct completion percentage overall? Yes they would but even Lashlee pointed out that you don't complete 65-70 percent of your vertical passes. During A-Day, we witnessed Nick Marshall targeting down field more so than he did during 2013. Of his 22 pass attempts, 15 were beyond 11-yards of the line of scrimmage. Last season Marshall completed only 39% of his vertical passes, so his 8 of 15 performance in the scrimmage was indeed a good sign. Keep in mind that Cam Newton completed only 52.8% of his vertical passes during 2010 and he was the No. 2 rated passer in the country. Nick Marshall was No. 24 nationally in pass-efficiency. Had he completed one more impact play per game (15+ yards), he would have been the No. 3 rated passer in the country. The 2010 pass-offense generated 71 pass-plays of 15-yards or more, while the 2013 offense produced 54. Nick Marshall's average impact play in the passing game covered an average of 31.6 yards, which was highest average of any Auburn quarterback the past 25 years. Can you imagine how explosive the offense would be simply adding one more impact play per game in the passing game? The play... On this play, Rhett Lashlee set up the defense by running an inside play with Corey Grant on the previous play. Utilizing the same formation on the very next play, Lashlee calls a play-action pass on first down. The defense is forced to respect the threat of the run and the LB's bite on the play-action. The LB's are frozen long enough for C. J. Uzomah to split the seam between the safeties. Marshall must deliver a quick pass that must make it over the LB, between the safeties. The pass wasn't the most accurate but Marshall places the ball in a location only Uzomah can make a play on it. Because the LB's had to play the run first, they were unable to drop in coverage soon enough to defend the play-action pass. Uzomah hauls the pass in for a 17-yard gain and a first down, which sets up a touchdown later in the same drive. Uzomah has only 18 career receptions but 11 of them have been impact plays. He might not be a 30-40 reception guy in 2014 but Uzomah will have his opportunities to make critical plays in the pass-offense, when he is the focus of the play. Lashlee and Malzahn want Marshall to be more accurate in 2014 but they know making plays down field is the true priority. Auburn has the personnel in place to field a dangerous passing game to match a powerful run-offense. If this takes place, we will see another record setting performance on offense.
  21. Auburn might not lead the nation in rushing in 2014 as they did during 2013 but the components are in place for a top-10 rushing attack. The offensive line will be very good, Nick Marshall returns and there are plenty of options at the RB position. Brandon Fulse might not be Jay Prosch but Fulse is a special player in his own right. Checking in at 6-4, 272, Fulse is like having an extra pulling guard in the backfield. He certainly showed his worth during A-Day in the running game as well as pass-protection. 2-Back and 2-TE set: I believe this just might be my favorite set, especially when the Tigers implement crossbuck action in the running game. Having Artis-Payne and Grant on the field at the same time will stress the opposing defense to their limits. It gives Auburn 3 options in the running game and the Tigers passed from this set too. Corey Grant had a great A-Day (128-yds on 5 carries), including a couple of nice runs between the tackles. His speed makes him a game-changer and he doesn't require 20-25 carries to inflict damage upon opposing teams. Every time he is on the field, the opponent must account for him or risk giving up a huge play. Every time Auburn came out in a variation of this lineup, the LB's crowded the line of scrimmage at the snap, having to respect the running game. This left the middle wide open between the safeties, allowing C.J. Uzomah 1 on 1 coverage over the middle.
  22. Cameron Artis-Payne finished the game with 97-yards on 12 carries for 8.1 yards per attempt. The level of competition he faced during A-Day should have resulted in a solid outing but there were several bright spots about his performance regardless of the competition. We know from last season, CAP possesses talent and speed is not one of his strengths. IMO, his vision, footwork and physical style are his primary attributes. Coming into A-Day, I was hoping to see CAP working towards getting north & south quickly. Tre Mason's biggest asset as a RB was his ability to hit the hole without hesitation. This almost always resulting in Mason maximizing his carries and limited the times he was tackled for a loss. Mason is perhaps one of Auburn's greatest "short-yardage" backs of all time. During the A-Day game, CAP faced 5 occasions, Auburn needed 2-yards or less to convert a first down. CAP was 4 of 5, which was an excellent sign for the future. Last season, 44.0% of CAP's rush attempts equated to a 5-yard gain or better. CAP hit the 66.7% mark this past Saturday. The one time he failed to convert, he attempted to reverse his field. During the above play, we see CAP's strengths as a RB. Nick Marshall and Tre Mason improved their mesh-exchange as the season progressed, making it difficult for the opposition to defend the read-option element of the Auburn running game. It will take plenty of reps for CAP and Marshall to refine this aspect but it was in solid form on this particular play. The delay in exchange froze the DE long enough for CAP to dart by after receiving the exchange. He takes 2 steps forward pulling the MLB and safety inside. CAP bounces from the "B" gap to the "C" gap before darting up field for a 9-yard gain. I like the way CAP squares his shoulders quickly as he bounces outside, making him more difficult to face head on. The play displays his vision and quick decision making. A 3-yard gain is better than no gain or loss on the play. Last season Tre Mason was held to no gain or a loss on 7.2% of his carries. CAP checked in at 12.1%. Of his 12 carries during A-Day, CAP gained positive yardage on all 12 attempts. Consistently making the most of each attempt, made Mason one of the best backs in the country. Cameron Artis-Payne will have the opportunity to do the same but a healthy Peyton Barber will push for playing time because he possesses the same ability to get vertical quickly.
  23. Yesterday, Coach Rhett Lashlee commented on the intent of improving Nick Marshall’s completion percentage for this upcoming season. He also stressed the importance of making additional plays vertically in the pass-offense. Though vertical passes are low percentage attempts, it remains necessary to make the offense more difficult to defend. With this in mind, I decided to breakdown Auburn’s history of generating explosive plays under Gus Malzahn. Total Number of offensive plays resulting in 15-yards or more (explosive plays): 2009: (120) 35.0% were runs 2010: (144) 50.7% run 2011: (87) 40.2% run 2013: (136) 60.3% run Note the increase in explosive plays generated from the run-offense during the 2010 and 2013 seasons. This is indicative of the value of having a dual-threat quarterback. The run-offense becomes more dynamic and we also witness an increase in overall explosive plays. Breakdown of explosive plays by position: 2009: WR-56, HB-15, RB-46, QB-3 2010: WR-60, HB-4, RB-45, QB-35 2011: WR-38, HB-6, RB-37, QB-6 2013: WR-47, HB-8, RB-53, QB-28 HB includes the plays made by the TE and FB positions. The plays accumulated from the QB position are run plays and plays the QB caught a pass. The above data clearly reveals the majority of explosive plays will come from the WR and RB positions in Malzahn’s offense. Once again, the following data reveals the difference of having a mobile quarterback. Percentage of explosive plays generated from the WR and RB positions combined: 2009: 85.0% 2010: 72.9% 2011: 86.2% 2013: 73.5% Note the difference in the seasons with Cam Newton (2010) and Nick Marshall (2013). The WR and RB positions are the key but Nick Marshall gives Auburn another huge weapon to account for in 2014, just as Cam Newton did during 2010. Gus Malzahn’s history of explosive plays: Gus Malzahn’s offense has generated 1035 explosive plays during 8 collegiate seasons or 9.5 per game. The goal is to reach 8 during a game. Malzahn’s offense has reached the goal of at least 8 during a game 66.9% of the time, compiling a record of 63-10, when doing so. Auburn is 37-4 under Gus Malzahn with at least 8 explosive plays during a game. An explosive play under Gus Malzahn is basically worth 3.9 points per play over a period of 8 seasons. When his offense reaches at least 8 explosive plays during a game, his offense averages 42.5 PPG and when they fail to reach the goal, his offense averaged 24.8 PPG. Looking towards the 2014 season: Auburn must replace Tre Mason, who accounted for 23 explosive plays during the 2013 season. The great news is that Cameron Artis-Payne had 12 despite having a far limited role than Mason in the offense. The same can be said about Corey Grant, who produced 15 explosive plays during the 2013 season. The addition of Peyton Barber and Racean Thomas to the RB position should provide Auburn with plenty of options at the RB position to generate explosive plays in 2014. Nick Marshall compiled 25 explosive plays last season with 24 via the ground. Marshall’s presence in the backfield will once again make the 2014 Auburn offense difficult to defend, especially when it comes to defending Auburn’s run-offense. While Mason averaged an explosive play every 14.3 touches, Artis Payne averaged 1 every 7.7 snaps and Grant had an even better ratio of 1 every 4.7 plays. Nick Marshall checked in at 1 every 6.9 (Doesn't include passing numbers). The key to the Auburn’s explosive potential will come at the WR position or in the passing game in general. Sammie Coates is basically a sure thing with 20 explosive plays last season. Coates is an established play maker, who simply needs to be more consistent. For Auburn to reach it’s full offensive potential will require at least 1 other WR to become a “consistent” play maker to compliment Coates. Ricardo Louis (10) and Marcus Davis (5) are the next two top WR’s in terms of generating explosive plays during 2013. Ricardo Louis is the most likely candidate from the returning players on the roster but Auburn added some additional insurance with the signing of D’haquille Williams. Malzahn and Lashlee are extremely high on Williams and what he can bring to the offense this season. It will also be interesting to see if Jaylon Denson, Melvin Ray and Tony Stevens can expand their role in the pass-offense. Senior Quan Bray has one last opportunity to earn additional playing time. The hidden gem of all the play makers available for 2014 just might be C.J. Uzomah, who had 6 explosive plays last season despite having very few passes thrown his way last season (11 receptions). He clearly has shown he can be a major “mismatch” issue for opposing defenses but Malzahn has never shown a willingness to make the TE a focal point in his pass-offense. This might have been something he wanted to change in 2013 had it not been for Uzomah being injured. Though I don’t expect them to be an “every game” threat, Brandon Fulse and Ricky Parks could provide Auburn with a surprise element in a few isolated games. What makes Gus Malzahn’s offense so special is his objective of building his offense around his available talent. Each season is a little different from the previous, primarily because of personnel changes. Combine this quality with the up-tempo element, deception and a dual-threat quarterback and you have the perfect formula for fielding a very explosive offense. As Rhett Lashlee has pointed out in the past, it is difficult to consistently sustain long drives in the SEC. This is the very reason why explosive plays are more vital now than ever. Every offense has a few play makers but the more you can field simultaneously, the better. This is the very reason why you don’t have to touch the ball 20 times during a game to make a major impact in Malzahn's offense. A player like Onterio McCalebb or Corey Grant can make a huge difference simply by being on the field. They might only have 7-10 touches during the course of a game but opposing defenses must account for them every time they are on the field. This threat creates opportunities for other skill players on the field.
  24. One of the many things I like about Gus Malzahn's offense is how he utilizes certain players as "role" players in his offense. Players like Onterio McCalebb, Corey Grant, Mario Fannin and Eric Smith would not have made a significant impact in more traditional styled offenses but Malzahn utilized their athletic abilities to provide an offensive role. Mario Fannin is an exception to the rule but when he was not the every down back under Malzahn, Gus still found a way of obtaining a productive role for him. Onterio McCalebb would have likely seen a limited role on offense under Tommy Tuberville and Corey Grant would have certainly collected dust on the Alabama bench under Nick Saban. Here are some interesting numbers compiled by the above mentioned backs along with Ricardo Louis and Terrell Zachery who were utilized in Malzahn's running game. During the 4 seasons under Gus Malzahn these 6 players combined for.... 3934-yards rushing 2757-yards receiving 6691-yards in total offense or 126.2 yards per game. During 53 games, the above 6 players accounted for 20.9% of the offensive snaps, 28.4% of the total yardage and 23.4% of the TD's scored on offense. They combined for 278 first downs, 51 TD's and 131 plays of 15-yards or more. When you consider an impact play is worth 3.7 points, these 6 players accounted for 485 points or 9.1 points per game. Of their 757 touches on offense, they averaged a first down every 2.7 plays and an impact play every 5.8 touches. They averaged 8.8 yards per touch, scoring a TD every 14.8 plays. The above numbers don't include the contributions made by players like Kodi Burns, Kiehl Frazier and others who have taken snaps as the wildcat QB. Though they will likely have a combined 10-15 touches against Florida State, Corey Grant and Ricardo Louis could play a major role in an Auburn victory.
  25. If Auburn is to defeat Florida State, their running game will need to be explosive against the Seminoles. Corey Grant could play a vital role against FSU, even with a limited number of offensive touches. Grant has only 65 carries for the season but he's made the most of them, averaging 10.0 yards per rush. This includes 35% of his rushes resulting in a first down along with 23 runs of 10-yards or more. Grant's ability to score on the perimeter keeps the inside running lanes open. On this play Auburn has the ball at their own 25-yard line, facing 1st &10. The Tigers will run their speed-sweep with Corey Grant, which is set up nicely by the threat of Nick Marshall keeping the ball inside. Just before the snap Grant motions into the backfield on the speed-sweep. Nick Marshall takes the snap and will ride the play for a split second, which freezes the LB's. Marshall makes the hand off to Grant after freezing the LB's, who follows behind Jay Prosch and Brandon Fulse pulling out of the backfield. Jay Prosch takes out the OLB and Fulse picks up the safety on the wide side of the field. Corey Grant makes a quick decision to cut up field, which allows him to burst into the secondary. Grant speeds down field for a 43-yard gain and an Auburn first down. The play sets up an eventual Auburn touchdown. Corey Grant enters the championship game against No. 1 ranked Florida State, averaging 9.09 yards per rush against ranked competition.