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Found 14 results

  1. As the season has progressed, D'haquille Williams is receiving more attention from opposing defenses. With this in mind, it is up to the Auburn coaching to staff to create opportunities for the other receivers to make plays. LSU's game plan was to take away Williams, forcing Auburn to generate plays from other personnel. Duke Williams was held to just 2 receptions, limited to only 5 passes thrown in his direction. Of his 2 receptions only 1 was an impact play. Auburn was able to counter with 6 impact plays to Auburn's remaining receivers. The play... On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 3 from their own 47-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 4-WR look with trips to the wide-side of the field. The 3 receivers on the wide side are initially stacked before C.J. Uzomah shifts from the top of the stack towards the backfield. The purpose of shifting Uzomah is for pass-protection, because Nick Marshall will roll to his right after the snap. Duke Williams at the front of the "stack" will run a rub route between the 2 DB's. Quan Bray will shadow behind Williams to run an out-pattern towards the sideline. Nick Marshall rolls to his right after taking the snap, quickly firing the pass out to Quan Bray. Bray hauls in the pass and turns up field and down the sideline for a 19-yard gain and an Auburn first down. Auburn targeted 9 different players in their passing game against LSU. The six impact pass-plays away from Duke Williams netted 185-yards.
  2. Through 3 games Auburn has yet to reach its full potential in the passing game. D'haquille Williams has already recorded 9 impact plays from his 21 receptions but Ricardo Louis and Sammie Coates have combined for just 1 impact play. Ricardo Louis registered his first impact play against Kansas State, which ended up being an explosive play. Kansas State came into the game with a plan of taking away Auburn's run-offense, challenging the Tigers to beat them through the air. To Auburn's credit, they did make some critical passes in the game, which made part of the difference in the outcome of the game. In reality, Auburn could have won more comfortably had they connected on several other passing opportunities. This situation will arise again down the road and Auburn will need a more consistent response from their pass-offense. The Play... On this play Auburn has the ball at the Kansas State 40-yard line on a 1st &10. K-State has 7 in the box with a high probability of a run play on first down. Auburn comes out in a 3-WR set with the intent of running a play-action pass. At the snap, Nick Marshall play-actions with CAP and sets up deep into the pocket. Marshall looks deep but the deep route to Sammie Coates is covered. Marshall goes through his progression and resets his feet with Louis breaking on a deep out. Marshall delivers a high pass, which Louis makes a great effort to snag. This was a great play on the part of Marshall, who did not force the deep ball, checking down to a better option. He also made his delivery with pressure in his face. Louis comes down with the reception at the 24-yard line, spinning away from safety. Ricardo Louis cuts the play back inside avoiding two other defenders to the end zone for the score. Louis made a great play on the ball and utilized his football instincts to gain 24 more yards after the catch. These are the type of plays Auburn's receivers need to make. If Coates and Louis begin making plays, Auburn will be able to maintain their threat in running the football, while achieving offensive balance.
  3. Auburn is currently ranked No. 36 nationally with a 152.4 rating. No. 55 on first down with a 144.5 rating. (Auburn must improve on this ranking going into the meat of the schedule.) No. 117 nationally on first down, completing only 50% of passes. (This is really poor but can be addressed by more high-percentage passes than the vertical routes we have seen through the first 3 games.) No. 18 nationally on third-down with a rating of 168.8. No. 8 nationally in converting third-downs into first downs or TD's. (This is huge and more of a vital sign of success on third-down than efficiency rating.) Breaking it down by quarter: Auburn is No. 5 in pass-efficiency during the first quarter, No. 96 during the second quarter, No. 81 during the third and No. 20 during the fourth quarter. Auburn is No. 19 nationally in generating 15+ yard passes and No. 24 in generating 25+ yard plays. Too much attention placed on completion percentage in my opinion. Nick Marshall is never going to be a 65-70 percent passer. The key for Auburn is generating impact and explosive plays to go along with their powerful running game. Last season Nick Marshall completed only 28 percent of his passes beyond 20-yards of the line of scrimmage. The goal was to push it up to 40-45 percent in 2014. Through 3 games, it has dropped to 18 percent. This is an area Auburn must improve upon to get through their brutal schedule ahead. Take away the 3 dropped passes and Marshall is hitting at 45.4% D'haquille Williams has lived up to his hype. Of his 21 receptions, 15 have resulted in a first down or touchdown. He also has 9 impact plays and is on pace to be the best WR in the last 25-years, when it comes to impact plays. Ricardo Louis and Sammie Coates need to step up their production. They have been targeted a combined 23 times. They have caught 9 passes with only 1 play over 15-yards. Williams has been targeted 27 times, catching 21 of which 9 have been impact plays. C.J. Uzomah has been thrown to only 3 times this season. Utilizing the TE and RB's in the passing game would be a great solution when opponents sell out to defend the run. It would also give Marshall an opportunity to improve his completion percentage and confidence. Those swing passes to the backs is almost open on every play. One of the reasons for Marshall's low completion percentage this season is the number of vertical passes attempted. Last season 49.8% of his pass attempts were within 5-yards of the line of scrimmage. This season its only 28.6%. Last season the average distance of Auburn's pass-impact plays was 31.6 yards. This was the best average over the past 25 years of Auburn football. This season it has dropped to 25.6 yards. The OL has done a great job in pass-protection. Auburn's QB's have been sacked only 1 time this season during 76 pass attempts. Last season there were too many missed opportunities in long pass-plays because of dropped passes or accuracy issues. It appears that trend has carried over into 2014. Auburn has too much talent on the field to be missing out on those big-play opportunities. I'm referring to the wide open plays, when there is busted coverage and its a simple matter of completing the pass.
  4. Auburn is currently ranked No. 36 nationally with a 152.4 rating. No. 55 on first down with a 144.5 rating. (Auburn must improve on this ranking going into the meat of the schedule.) No. 117 nationally on first down, completing only 50% of passes. (This is really poor but can be addressed by more high-percentage passes than the vertical routes we have seen through the first 3 games.) No. 18 nationally on third-down with a rating of 168.8. No. 8 nationally in converting third-downs into first downs or TD's. (This is huge and more of a vital sign of success on third-down than efficiency rating.) Breaking it down by quarter: Auburn is No. 5 in pass-efficiency during the first quarter, No. 96 during the second quarter, No. 81 during the third and No. 20 during the fourth quarter. Auburn is No. 19 nationally in generating 15+ yard passes and No. 24 in generating 25+ yard plays. Too much attention placed on completion percentage in my opinion. Nick Marshall is never going to be a 65-70 percent passer. The key for Auburn is generating impact and explosive plays to go along with their powerful running game. Last season Nick Marshall completed only 28 percent of his passes beyond 20-yards of the line of scrimmage. The goal was to push it up to 40-45 percent in 2014. Through 3 games, it has dropped to 18 percent. This is an area Auburn must improve upon to get through their brutal schedule ahead. Take away the 3 dropped passes and Marshall is hitting at 45.4% D'haquille Williams has lived up to his hype. Of his 21 receptions, 15 have resulted in a first down or touchdown. He also has 9 impact plays and is on pace to be the best WR in the last 25-years, when it comes to impact plays. Ricardo Louis and Sammie Coates need to step up their production. They have been targeted a combined 23 times. They have caught 9 passes with only 1 play over 15-yards. Williams has been targeted 27 times, catching 21 of which 9 have been impact plays. C.J. Uzomah has been thrown to only 3 times this season. Utilizing the TE and RB's in the passing game would be a great solution when opponents sell out to defend the run. It would also give Marshall an opportunity to improve his completion percentage and confidence. Those swing passes to the backs is almost open on every play. One of the reasons for Marshall's low completion percentage this season is the number of vertical passes attempted. Last season 49.8% of his pass attempts were within 5-yards of the line of scrimmage. This season its only 28.6%. Last season the average distance of Auburn's pass-impact plays was 31.6 yards. This was the best average over the past 25 years of Auburn football. This season it has dropped to 25.6 yards. The OL has done a great job in pass-protection. Auburn's QB's have been sacked only 1 time this season during 76 pass attempts. Last season there were too many missed opportunities in long pass-plays because of dropped passes or accuracy issues. It appears that trend has carried over into 2014. Auburn has too much talent on the field to be missing out on those big-play opportunities. I'm referring to the wide open plays, when there is busted coverage and its a simple matter of completing the pass.
  5. Through 3 games into the season, Cameron Artis-Payne has done a solid job of replacing Tre Mason. He has racked up 352-yards rushing, putting him on pace for a 1400-yard regular season. He is currently 2nd on the team in generating impact plays, behind D'haquille Williams. Kansas State limited CAP to just 63-yards rushing last Thursday night but he was still able to generate 2 impact plays in the passing game. The play... On this play Auburn faces a 2nd & 8 from their own 13-yard line. Auburn has a double-screen set up, featuring Cameron Artis-Payne. Before the snap, CAP is lined up over the slot position and will motion into the backfield. At the snap, CAP fans back out of the backfield as Sammie Coates sets up on the boundary side for a screen-pass look. Auburn's OL splits up with 3 setting up a wall for Coates side and 2 moving to wall up for CAP on the wide-side. Nick Marshall delivers the screen pass to Cameron Artis-Payne as Patrick Miller and Avery Young set up to block for CAP down field. Artis-Payne high-steps to avoid one tackle from behind and is able to split 2 additional defenders to gain 15-yards on the play. The play results in an Auburn first-down. Cameron Artis-Payne has 4 receptions on the season and 3 have resulted in an impact play for the Auburn offense. He has proven to be an extremely reliable pass-option and hopefully will be utilized more frequently in the passing game.
  6. Auburn was very fortunate to come out Manhattan, Kansas with a 20-14 victory. One of the reasons for the game being so close was the lack of impact plays during the game. Auburn had only 5 plays of 15-yards or more against the Wildcats. Malzahn's offense at Auburn has averaged 9 such plays per game. K-State did a great job of taking away Auburn's powerful running game, leaving it up to the pass-offense to carry the load. Though Nick Marshall finished with a solid performance, the Auburn pass-offense missed out on a couple of deep passes that would have resulted for long touchdown plays. These are the kind of plays that creates separation on the scoreboard, even when the opponent is playing inspired football. The play... On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 6 from their own 34-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 4-WR set with the intent of running multiple vertical routes. At the snap Cameron Artis-Payne remains in the backfield for extra pass-protection. Nick Marshall sets up in the pocket, looking off his intended target in D'haquille Williams. Duke Williams runs a skinny-post, who is covered by a safety, playing deep off the ball. Nick Marshall resets his feet and hips towards Williams. Kansas State ran a twist up front with a DT and DE. The DT actually got the jump on Avery Young but Young recovers in time to force the DT over the pocket. Marshall is able to step up in his pocket to throw the ball deep to Williams. The Auburn OL struggled at times in the running game but played much better in pass-protection. Auburn's quarterbacks have only been sacked 1 time through 3 games. Marshall's pass hits Williams in stride but he's unable to bring the ball in for the reception. Had he not dropped the ball, the play more than likely results in a 66-yard touchdown play. This was one of those "separation" plays that could have bailed out the offense, which struggled during the first-half of the game. When you consider that big plays (30+) have accounted for 27 percent of Malzahn's offensive yardage, making them becomes critical. Number of Big Plays (30+) from 2000-2014 thru 3-games: 2000: 9 2001: 9 2002: 6 2003: 3 2004: 7 2005: 8 2006: 6 2007: 5 2008: 9 2009: 7 2010: 11 2011: 9 2012: 7 2013: 6 2014: 6 Auburn has already missed out on 6-7 big plays this season.
  7. It certainly wasn't the result most Auburn supporters were hoping for but we should all be grateful Auburn left Manhattan, Kansas with a victory. Auburn's school record streaks of 200-yard rushing games and 30-point games came to end at the hands of the Kansas State defense. It was a Wildcat defense that was well coached, disciplined and quick to the point of attack. It took away the heart of the Auburn offense, which limited Auburn's explosive play ability. Fortunately for Auburn, the Tigers' defense came to play, holding Kansas State to under 300-yards of offense. If not for the first-half play of the Auburn defense, the Tigers would not have held their slim 10-7 lead at halftime. If we learned anything from tonight, it was a clear sign of how difficult it will be for Auburn to navigate through their schedule unblemished. With the way Auburn has run the ball during the last 16 games before the Kansas State game, we became spoiled from its production. This is the very reason why Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee knew the importance of improving the pass-offense. Auburn will remain a strong running team but Kansas State won't likely be the last team to slow Auburn's rushing attack down before season's end. This means the pass-offense must strive for continued improvement or face the reality of losing. The play of the offensive line and blocking on the perimeter was very inconsistent against the Wildcats. Auburn's longest run of the night was a 17-yard gain by Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne took a massive beating between the tackles. Kansas State simply beat Auburn up front, when the Tigers were on offense. The good news was that Nick Marshall delivered, when he was needed the most. If not for 4-5 dropped passes, Marshall would have passed for over 300-yards and at least 3 TD's. It's good to know the players and coaches can learn from this reality check and still be undefeated. All in all, the defense took another big step forward as well as Nick Marshall but the offensive line are in for a gloomy film study this week. Inside the Numbers: Despite the average performance by the offense, Auburn has raised the bar over a 16-game run. Auburn's offense beginning in 1970 and 5 games into the 1971 season, averaged 446.8 yards per game and 34.8 PPG. Starting with the 6th game of the 1994 season, Auburn's offense averaged 461.8 YPG and 36.1 PPG over a 16-game period. Starting with the last game of the 2009 season on through the first game of 2011, Auburn averaged 486.3 YPG and 41.1 PPG. Beginning with the second game of the 2013 season on through the Kansas State game, Auburn averaged 504.4 YPG and 40.4 PPG. The last time Auburn held a team from a major conference to under 300-yards was the 2011 Florida game. Kansas State was held to only 78-yards on 30 first down snaps. The last time Auburn held a major opponent to under 3-yards per play on first down was the 2008 Mississippi State game. Nick Marshall had a QB rating of only 112.3 during the first-half, thanks to a couple of dropped passes. Marshall rebounded strong with a 159.9 rating during the second-half. Nick Marshall came into the game with a total of 4 third-down passes that resulted in a first-down. Against Kansas State, Marshall converted 7 third-down situations, throwing the football. Three games into the season, D'haquille Williams has been targeted 27 times, catching 21 passes. Sammie Coates has been thrown to 13 times, catching 3. Ricardo Louis has been targeted 10 times, hauling in 6 passes. Nick Marshall has completed on 43 percent of his passes on first down but has connected on 57 percent on third-down. After gaining only 60-yards during their first 5 possessions of the game, the Auburn offense gained 294-yards during their next 6 possessions. After going 2 of 7 on third-down during the first-half, Auburn was 8 of 11 during the second-half. Through 3 games into the 2013 season, the Auburn defense had allowed 6 plays of 30-yards or more. The 2014 defense has surrendered just 2. Only 24 of Auburn's 76 offensive snaps netted at least 5-yards. Lowest output of the season. K-State had 29 of 70 snaps that went for at least 5-yards. Auburn's defense has allowed 5.4 yards per play during the first-half and only 3.4 yards per play during the second-half. 52.2 percent of the plays defended by the Auburn defense has been held to 2-yards or less this season. Auburn had averaged at least 17 first down plays that netted at least 5-yards, prior to Kansas State. The Wildcats held Auburn to just 9 plays of 5-yards or more on first down. Last season through 3 games, only 7.9% of Auburn's possessions began on the opponent's side of the field. This season it has increased to 17.1 percent. One of the primary keys to victory was stopping Kansas State from scoring on the 3 possessions they took possession on the Auburn side of the field. Auburn is now 33-4 under Gus Malzahn's offense, when the Tigers score at least 2 times during their first 4 possessions of the game. This was not the case against Kansas State, making Auburn 12-8 under Malzahn, when scoring only once or less during their first 4 possessions. Last season Nick Marshall completed only 28.3 percent of his passes beyond 20-yards of the line of scrimmage. The key was to improve to 40-45 percent in 2014. Through 3 games, Marshall has hit only 18.2 percent. This has to improve or Auburn won't make it back to Atlanta much less the playoffs. Through 3 games Auburn has allowed 3.2 yards per rush during the first-half and 1.3 yards during the second-half. Of Auburn's 18 scoring drives this season, 65.7 percent of the plays have been on the ground. Auburn's front-7 (star included) was involved in only 42.4 percent of the tackles. This included only 9 stops by the D-line, which averaged 17 per game prior to Kansas State. Auburn has now scored 34 points from their opponent's turnovers and have surrendered zero points to the opponent from Auburn's turnovers. Final Word: It would be easy to write off this team's chances of winning a championship solely based on their performance against Kansas State. Though it's obvious there are areas Auburn needs to improve upon, most championship teams survives at least one of these type games during the season. I believe the game plan for this game were solid but execution was questionable in several critical areas. The offensive line struggled, there were too many dropped passes and special teams did not deliver like they normally do. Credit should also be given to the opposition for their performance and effort, which made Auburn's offense look mortal more than not. Auburn will have a couple of extra days and Louisiana Tech to work through before hosting LSU. The time spent before the LSU game will be critical to prepare for what will be an extremely physical game. The offense must find the ability to be more balanced, when their backs are against the wall but there are plenty of positive signs, the defense has continued to improve. Though Auburn won the tackle for loss battle against Kansas State (6 to 5), the Wildcats clearly held the edge in controlling the line of scrimmage. Auburn will not advance very far is this becomes the case, when they return to conference play. The secondary looks questionable at times but it is important to remember the youth movement in place and the lack of experience back there. A better push by the defensive line would help but until that happens, look for Ellis Johnson to mix in the blitz at critical times. Thus far, Auburn has been very productive in this area. The regular season is one-fourth through and Auburn is still in the mix for a special season. The Tigers will need to continue their march to improvement as the schedule becomes more challenging each week. Enjoy the good things accomplished in each game, rather than fretting over the negatives. Normally there are more positives than negatives but its human nature to focus on the negative. This is directed at us as fans and not the team and coaches. Let the players and coaches work out the kinks. War Eagle!
  8. Perhaps the most important element of the offense Auburn coaches wanted to improve upon was their vertical passing game. As explosive as the offense was during 2013, there were too many missed opportunities in the vertical passing game. This was the focus of the game plan against San Jose State, attempting to challenge the opposing secondary down field. Though Auburn secured a comfortable 59-13 victory over the Spartans, Auburn struggled throwing the football down field. Because opposing defenses will be so focused on defending the Auburn running game, there will be ample moments to exploit the opposition with the passing game. The play... On this play Auburn faces a 2nd & 13 from their own 30-yard line. Auburn comes out in a run look with both TE's in the backfield. San Jose State is in a Cover-1, with one safety covering the entire back end of the field. Before the snap, the CB covering D'haquille Williams is playing nearly 10-yards off the line. At the snap, Nick Marshall will look off to the boundary side as Duke Williams breaks into his route. D'haquille Williams initially pulls the CB inside on what appears to be a post route but makes a double move to run a deep out towards the sideline. The CB becomes twisted around with no safety help over the top. Nick Marshall resets his feet and shoulders and delivers a soft arching pass towards Williams. The pass allows Williams time to run under the ball for an easy completion. The pass-play picks up 27-yards and an Auburn first down. Williams has caught 13 passes through 2 games, with 7 resulting in an impact play. He is currently on pace to establish a new school record in impact plays.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!
  11. D'haquille Williams clearly lived up to all the preseason hype, catching 9 passes for 154-yards against the Razorbacks. He led all offensive players with 5 impact plays or plays of 15-yards or more. He became only the 4th Auburn WR to record at least 5 impact plays during a game against a conference opponent from 1992-2014. The play... On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 6 from the Razorback 18-yard line. The Tigers come out in a 4-WR set with D'haquille Williams lined up in the slot on the wide-side of the field. Arkansas responds with a nickel package and their safeties playing deep off the line. This opens up the middle of the field for a quick slant, which Auburn executes with Williams. As soon as Jeremy Johnson takes the snap, he immediately fires his pass to Williams, who cuts inside the nickel corner. By the time the safety arrives into view, Williams already has made the first down, headed towards the Razorback endzone. Williams fights through both DB's and extends his upper body and ball over the goal line for his first touchdown as an Auburn Tiger. D'haquille Williams will be a nightmare to cover in the slot this season but expect Malzahn and Lashlee to move him around to create other mismatches on the field. Prior 5-play impact performances against SEC teams... 1995 Tyrone Goodson - Ole Miss 1996 Tyrone Goodson - Miss State 1997 Tyrone Goodson - LSU 1997 Tyrone Goodson - Ole Miss 2009 Darvin Adams - Miss State 2012 Emory Blake - Georgia
  12. 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
  13. Finding a second receiver to step up in 2014 to team up with Sammie Coates will be one of the primary goals for the Auburn offense. The Tigers fielded one of the top offenses in the nation during their BCS Championship run but a consistent tandem at WR could take the offense to a higher level of performance. With Nick Marshall returning at quarterback, the Auburn offense already has dynamic potential but adding another play maker at WR would truly stretch opposing defenses to the max. From 1970-2013, there has only been 5 occasions, where Auburn had a tandem of WR's or a TE to total at least 40 receptions each during one season. 1971: Terry Beasley (55-846-12) & Dick Schmalz (44-647-7) 1994: Frank Sanders (58-910-7) & Thomas Bailey (41-550-2) 1997: Karsten Bailey (53-840-7) & Tyrone Goodson (48-906-5) 1998: Karsten Bailey (43-651-7) & Clifton Robinson (42-672-0) 2010: Darvin Adams (52-963-7) & Terrell Zachery (43-605-4) From 1970-2013, the current 14 members of the SEC were able to field a "tandem" of 40-reception WR's or TE's during a season on 107 occasions. This means it occurred only 17.3 percent of the time during that 44-year period. Here is the total number of times for each program... Missouri ................... 14 (2 times in the SEC) Florida ..................... 12 Georgia .................... 11 LSU ......................... 11 Tennessee ................ 9 Texas A&M ............... 9 (2 times in the SEC) Vanderbilt ................. 8 Kentucky .................. 7 Ole Miss ................... 7 Arkansas .................. 5 (All while in the SEC) Auburn ..................... 5 South Carolina .......... 5 (4 times in the SEC) Alabama .................. 2 Miss State ................ 2 Though tandems only occurred 17.3% of the time from 1970-2013, it has happened 53.6% of the time during the past 2 seasons. Offenses are obviously more balanced and wide open during the past decade than any other period of the Southeastern Conference. This is another reason why it has become imperative for Auburn to field their own reliable tandem to compete in the SEC. Producing such level of play will only open the doors for recruiting quality receivers. The talent is present for Auburn to field another consistent performer at WR to match up with Sammie Coates. Ricardo Louis is the most likely candidate among the returning WR's but D'haquille Williams is already drawing praise from his early production this spring. Jaylon Denson, Marcus Davis, Tony Stevens and Melvin Ray saw plenty of action last season along with Quan Bray. Dominic Walker is another big target to watch for after red shirting the 2013 season. Through 8 collegiate seasons, Gus Malzahn has fielded a "tandem" on 4 occasions but only once, while at Auburn. I expect Auburn to throw the football 25 times per game, up from their 20 attempts per game during 2013. Sammie Coates was targeted 78 times last season, followed by Ricardo Louis (48). Marcus Davis and Quan Bray were tied for No. 3, targeted 31 times each.
  14. There wasn't very much to nitpick about when it came to the 2013 Auburn offense. The Tigers were No. 11 in total offense and No. 12 in scoring offense this past season, setting school records in total yardage and run-offense. They were not perfect but the Auburn running game was the driving force to Pasadena, California through Atlanta. If there were issues on offense, it primarily came in the pass-offense, with Nick Marshall growing into his position as the season progressed. The numbers... Auburn finished the season with the No. 1 ranked run-offense and the nation's No. 24 ranked pass-offense in terms of pass-efficiency. No. 24 pass-efficiency offense but No. 6 in the Southeastern Conference. No. 13 rated pass-offense (efficiency) on third-down. No. 11 rated pass-offense in producing pass-plays of 25-yards or more. No. 14 rated pass-offense in touchdown ratio. No. 10 rated pass-efficiency offense during the 1st quarter. The above rankings paints quite the picture of a very efficient pass-offense, capable of producing big-plays and extending drives. It's important to remember the NCAA efficiency formula is primarily based on completion percentage, yards per attempt and TD ratio. In reality, the efficiency rating doesn't always translate into actual production as the following example reveals. Example #1: 15-20-1-200yds-1td (165.5 rating) Example #2: 11-20-0-145yds-3tds (163.3 rating In the above example, Quarterback #1 had a higher completion percentage and the better yards per attempt average. Quarterback #2 finished the game with 3 TD passes and 0 interceptions but had a lower efficiency rating than Quarterback #1, who had 1 TD pass and 1 pick. Which QB numbers would you want during a game? The numbers from a productivity standpoint... Even though Auburn had an efficiency rating of No. 24 nationally, the Tigers were No. 70 nationally in their ratio of first-downs produced by their pass-offense. Even though Auburn had the No. 13 efficiency rated pass-offense on third-down, the Tigers were No. 77 in actually converting third-downs, throwing the football. Auburn was No. 10 in pass-efficiency throwing the football during the first quarter but No. 33 throwing the football during the fourth quarter. Auburn was No. 11 nationally in producing pass-plays of 25-yards or more but No. 29 in producing pass-plays of 15-yards or more. The 2012 Auburn pass-offense produced 53 pass plays of 15-yards or more in 12 games. The 2013 pass-offense had only 54 in 14 games. As good as the offensive line was paving a path for the ground-game, the Tigers were No. 54 nationally in sack-ratio allowed. Looking at Auburn's pass-offense in terms of a "productivity" standpoint, reveals some of the concerns Auburn will face moving forward into 2014. Though I see the value of the efficiency rating, it's also important to focus on the actual productivity level. Sometimes they are one in the same but the above examples show this is not always the case. I tend to look at productivity translating to points and first downs. Comparing only Auburn pass-offenses from 1992-2013, the 2013 pass-offense was No. 3 in producing pass-plays of 30-yards or more but No. 9 in producing pass-plays of 15-yards or more. Why is this a concern? The ratio of impact plays (15+) to big plays (30+) is 4 to 1 from 1992-2013. Because impact plays happen far more frequently, it's vital Auburn is more efficient in the intermediate range passing-game than the deep ball. From 1992-2013 an impact play (15+) has been worth 3.7 points. Big plays are great but the impact plays made in the intermediate passing game are the plays that extend drives. The 2013 Auburn offense produced 83 scoring drives, scoring on 44.9 percent of their possessions last season. Of their 83 scoring drives, 74 percent of the plays from the scoring drives were run plays. Auburn was heavily reliant upon their running game in 2013 and for the most part, made the most of it. Imagine how explosive and how difficult it would be to defend the 2014 Auburn offense with a more prolific passing game. Nick Marshall... Enough cannot be said about Nick Marshall's progression this past season. This was his first season playing quarterback at this level and he did so without participating in spring practice. Adjusting to the speed of the game and a new offense, he led his team to a SEC Championship and was seconds from winning a national championship. He clearly was a better quarterback at the end of the year than he was, when he made his first start against Washington State. During the first 4 games of the season, he had an efficiency rating of 129.3, improving to 154.4 during the final 4 games of the season. Marshall was a fearless leader and his teammates gravitated around him. His impressive efficiency rating during Auburn's last 4 games of the season against ranked opponents, is a clear indicator he hasn't reached the ceiling of his full potential. He will have a comfort zone entering the 2014 season he did not possess at the start of 2013 and 2014 will mark the first time Gus Malzahn had the same starting quarterback two years in a row. Nick Marshall completed only 40.0 percent of his passes attempted beyond 5-yards of the line of scrimmage, which needs to improve in 2014. In comparison, Cam Newton completed 56.1 percent of his passes. Nick Marshall produced a run-play of 10-yards or more every 4.3 attempts, better than Cam Newton's ratio of 1 every 5.3 attempts. The difference was Newton's ability to hit a pass-play of 15-yards or more every 4.3 attempts to Marshall's 1 every 5.3 attempts. The 2013 pass-offense was the No. 3 most efficient pass-offense during the last 50 years of Auburn football. The 2013 pass-offense was the No. 4 most efficient in conference play during the past 50 years of Auburn football. Looking back over the past 30 years, Nick Marshall produced 4 of the top-20 most efficient pass performances against a top-10 ranked opponent. No other Auburn quarterback had more in one season. Sammie Coates was Auburn's most frequented target this past year with 27.4 percent of the passes thrown in his direction and Ricardo Louis was No. 2 at 16.8 percent. Quan Bray and Marcus Davis were tied for No. 3 at 10.9 percent. Auburn will likely have a strong running game again in 2014 and an improved pass-offense could produce record setting numbers once again. Nick Marshall needs to become more efficient and productive but the good news is the potential is there for it to actually transpire. Malzahn and Lashlee are extremely high on the senior to be with Marshall improving as the 2013 season progressed, despite the schedule becoming more challenging. Despite the losses of 3 starters on the offense, Nick Marshall will have a great supporting cast in 2014. Four starters up front return as well as all of his receivers. The addition of D'haquille Williams to the receiving corps, gives Marshall another major playmaker in the pass-offense. Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens will also go through spring and summer workouts for the first time, which will allow them to develop physically and mentally. Marshall having the spring, summer and fall sessions to improve before the 2014 season begins should be huge for the Auburn offense. Addressing his mechanics and improving his field recognition should push Marshall to reaching his full potential as the starting quarterback.
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