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  1. 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.
  2. Auburn comes into the Georgia game with the No. 3 ranked run-offense and will need every bit of that ability to muster enough points to outscore a very dangerous Bulldog offense. At the center of Auburn's SEC leading run-offense in quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason. During their last 5 games playing together, the dynamic duo have averaged 237-yards per game combined on the ground. The primary reason for their success has been Nick Marshall's execution of the read-option. Marshall has done a splendid job of knowing when to keep the ball and when to deal it off to his running backs, primarily Tre Mason. On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 1 from their own 23-yard line. At the snap Nick Marshall makes the correct read on the edge as Tennessee appears to be more concerned about the inside give to Tre Mason. Marshall keeps the ball after pulling the ball away from Tre Mason's belly, catching the Tennessee safety committed inside. Nick Marshall utilizes his quickness and speed to motor around the diving safety, picking up 25-yards on the play and an Auburn first down. Another key to success in the Auburn running game has been the blocking by Auburn's receivers. When the Tigers lost the services of Jaylon Denson, it was a major concern because of his ability to block on the perimeter. Sammie Coates and Trovon Reed have really stepped up in their roles as perimeter blockers, opening up running lanes near the opponent's side line for big gains. It's the combination of great OL play, edge blocking and perimeter blocking that has lifted Auburn to being the No. 2 nationally in generating run-plays of 10-yards or more.
  3. Auburn enters game #7 with the No. 7 run-offense nationally vs. the No. 104 run-defense (Texas A&M). No matter who starts at quarterback for Auburn, the Tigers must obtain the most of their running game this coming Saturday. In terms of churning out 10+ yard runs, Auburn is No. 7 nationally and the Aggie defense is 114th in allowing them. Gus Malzahn is 36-6, when his run offense has at least 45 carries, averaging 37.4 PPG, when doing so. On this play Auburn has the ball at the Catamount 20-yard line and they will run a sweep to the left behind two pulling guards. This has always been a staple play in the Malzahn offense, where his backs have produced most of their long runs. Nothing fancy in terms of schemes, relying simply on pure execution. At the snap, Alex Kozan and Chad Slade pull to the left to create a running lane for Tre Mason, who takes the hand off from Jeremy Johnson. Jay Prosch is lined up as a TE and will be responsible for sealing the edge (DE). Kozan delivers a good kick out block as Tre Mason sprints towards the sideline. Mason speeds down the sideline and dives into the end zone for the Auburn score. Regardless of the caliber of opponent, Auburn must play well up front and hopefully receive solid down field blocking. Quan Bray did a solid job of walling off a defender, preventing backside pursuit. With the previous loss of Jaylon Denson and now Brandon Fulse, the Tigers have lost two valuable perimeter blockers.
  4. With the loss of Jaylon Denson, the addition of Tony Stevens becomes even more vital for the Auburn offense. The 4-star recruit has a great frame (6-3) to eventually become a physical presence but Auburn needs his athletic exploits now. With Marcus Davis taking advantage of his recent playing time, Tony Stevens must realize his opportunity could be now too. On this play Auburn is operating out of their 2-minute offense, facing a 2nd & 10 situation. Tony Stevens is lined up in the slot with the Tigers in a 4-WR set. The DB playing tight over him will actually come on a blitz, creating a "hot route" opportunity for the true freshman. Nick Marshall doesn't have much time to get his pass off but he manages to make his throw just as he is being hit. The delivery of the ball is low and behind Stevens but he adjusts to make the reception for an 11-yard gain and first down. With better pass-protection and a better throw, this play could have resulted in something big.
  5. It appears Tre Mason might be separating himself from Cameron Artis-Payne to become the primary RB but CAP will still be a major component of Auburn's running game. Coach Gus Malzahn believes in having a trio of backs in the playing rotation in order to keep his ground game fresh as the game progresses. Though he only had 7 carries against LSU this past Saturday, CAP averaged 5.9 yards per carry. On this play Auburn has a 1st &10 at the LSU 12-yard line set to run their zone-read play. Cameron Artis-Payne is in at RB. At the snap, Nick Marshall reads the DE, who is playing the quarterback so Marshall hands off to CAP. Cameron Artis-Payne takes the hand off and cuts back to his right. Patrick Miller drives the DE inside to give CAP the edge as Quan Bray seals the OLB. When CAP first took the hand off, he took 1 step inside before cutting back to his right, which had LSU's front-7 initially reacting to an inside run. Once CAP gets to the edge, Brandon Fulse makes a good kick-out block on the CB, clearing a path to the end zone for Artis-Payne. Cameron scores on a 12-yard run made possible by Auburn winning the line of scrimmage and possessing solid blocking on the perimeter. Brandon Fulse will likely play a major role in the offense from this point on with the loss of Jaylon Denson.
  6. With the injury to Jaylon Denson, Auburn really needs the younger receivers on the roster to step up. One of those players is true freshman Marcus Davis, who is currently the 3rd most targeted Auburn Tiger in their pass-offense. Over the past 2 games, he has been the 2nd most targeted player. Though he has only 10 receptions on the season for a modest 8.7 yards per reception, 2 of them have been "impact plays" and 4 have resulted in a first down or TD. On this play Auburn has a 3rd & 5 situation, coming out in a 4-WR set against the LSU defense. Marcus Davis is in the slot to the right of the formation. The safety on that side will slide off his coverage on Davis to blitz off the edge, leaving a LB covering Davis. At the snap Auburn's OL does a solid job protecting Nick Marshall as Marcus Davis runs a shallow crossing route in front of the LB. (Note the targeted zone area highlighted in frames 2 & 3.) Marshall delivers his pass to Davis, who gains a few extra yards after the catch for an 11-yard gain and Auburn first down. Marcus Davis makes for a great slot-receiver because of his quickness and speed, which will cause match up issues for opposing defenses covering him with a safety or LB.
  7. Something Gus Malzahn will likely test the waters with is his screen packages to his WR's against LSU. LSU in the past has done a great job defending them but it remains a primary aspect of Malzahn's offense to stretch defenses out side line to side line as well as setting up the running game and vertical passes. I expect to see some vertical passes off the screen game against LSU, we have not seen executed during the first 3 games. On this play Auburn runs a quick screen to Ricardo Louis on 1st down. The play is set up with a run-heavy look, which is expected from a Malzahn offense on first down. At the snap, Marshall play-actions with CAP as both guards pull to their right to sell the run look. Note how the MSU defense reacts to the run first. Nick Marshall zips his pass out to Louis, who has open space to operate. He initially cuts inside and then bounces outside around Jaylon Denson. Denson provides a crushing block to allow Louis the side line for an 11-yard gain and an Auburn first down. Louis is a very physical receiver with great side to side movement.
  8. Over the past couple of seasons, a play Auburn fans spoke frequently about was the slant pass. The comments were normally regarding the lack of slant passes by the offense and the frequency of the Auburn defense being burned by it. Auburn picked up a third-down conversion against the Red Wolves utilizing the slant pass to Jaylon Denson. On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 5 from their own 20-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 4-WR set with Jaylon Denson in the slot on the wide side of the field. Arkansas State counters with tight coverage and an extra defender to blitz the quarterback. Note the target zone in Image #1. At the snap Jaylon Denson runs his slant now on the inside shoulder of the safety. Nick Marshall delivers an accurate ball over the LB and underneath the safety for the completion. Denson utilizes his 6-3, 219 body to break a few tackles, gaining 17-yards and an Auburn first down.
  9. By midway in the final period of the Arkansas State game, Auburn was able to substitute backups into the game, which is almost always a good sign. It normally means the team was very successful on the field and allows younger players to receive valuable playing time to improve their game. In this case it meant the Auburn debut of Shon Coleman who has likely overcome more to reach this moment in his playing career to take a snap at Auburn than any other player in school history. On this play Auburn faces a 2nd & 10 from the Red Wolves 12-yard line. Shon Coleman has already been involved in the previous offensive series as the LT but this will be his first scoring drive as an Auburn Tiger. Auburn executes a sweep to the right with Gage Batten (FB) as Cameron Artis-Payne's lead blocker. Alex Kozan is the only regular starter on the OL and he pulls to his right to clear a running lane for Auburn's RB. Jaylon Denson seals the edge long enough for Artis-Payne to turn the corner as Auburn's power RB breaks a tackle to skip into the end zone for Auburn's final TD of the game. This play is regularly featured in Malzahn's offense and it was part of a 301-yard rushing performance, which included CAP's first 100-yard game as an Auburn Tiger.
  10. Auburn's offense registered 9 impact plays (15-yds or more) against the Red Wolves with 8 different Tigers getting into the mix. Trovon Reed opened up the explosive plays picking up the first one of the night. On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 3 from the ASU 45-yard line. The Tigers come out in a 3-WR set with 2 WR's stacked at the top of the formation on the boundary side. ASU counters by stacking their DB's, leaving the safety responsible for covering Trovon Reed. At the snap Jaylon Denson drives the CB inside creating space outside to Trovon Reed. Nick Marshall rolls to his left delivering a quick throw to Reed, who hauls in the pass and turns up field. Reed breaks the attempted tackle by the safety gaining 17-yards on the play. Auburn's ability to spread the ball around and still create explosive plays will make the offense more difficult to defend down the road.
  11. I thought Jaylon Denson might be one of Auburn's top receivers this season as the Tigers "possession" type receiver. Against Washington State Denson was targeted 3 times, making 1 reception on the day. On this play Auburn faces a 2nd & 6 from their own 26-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 3-WR set with Jaylon Denson split out wide on the wide side of the field. At the snap Nick Marshall looks off Denson to the boundary side of the field. The CB covering Denson has man coverage and lines up nearly 8-yards off the line of scrimmage. Denson drives off the line as if he is running a deeper vertical route but button hooks a yard beyond the first down marker. Marshall delivers a bullet to Denson, who turns up field for an 11-yard gain and Auburn first down. The pass protection on the play was superb.
  12. Corey Grant joined some elite company against Washington State, becoming only the 6th Auburn RB since 1992 to register at least 4 run plays of 15-yards or more during the same game. James Bostic did it during 1992 & 1993, Stephen Davis during 1995, Rudi Johnson during 2000, Ronnie Brown in 2002 and Michael Dyer during 2010. On this play Auburn has the ball 1st & 10 from their own 37-yard line. In a 3-WR set, Auburn will execute their zone-read play with Nick Marshall and Corey Grant. Marshall rides Grant out until the last possible second, getting the DE to crash down. Once Corey Grant has possession of the football, Quan Bray and Jaylon Denson wall of the DB's, opening the side line for Grant. Corey Grant picks up 15-yards on the run and an Auburn first down. Grant proves that he can be a primary back on this play and not just a player utilized primarily on speed-sweeps.
  13. Impact or explosive plays is defined as plays of 15-yards or more. Since 1992, Auburn has averaged 7.3 impact plays per game. Impact plays account for only 11.1% of Auburn's offensive snaps but account for 50.7% of the total yardage gained on offense. Since 1992 an impact play on offense for Auburn has been worth 3.68 points. Since 1992, Auburn has compiled a record of 93-19-2, when generating at least 8 impact plays during a game. The above numbers clearly indicate why impact or explosive plays are so critical on offense. In this day & age of football, establishing long sustained drives has become more difficult, which means explosive plays are needed. The defenses in the SEC are some of the best in the country, which means SEC offenses will be challenged more frequently. Gus Malzahn Production: His offenses over the past 7 seasons have averaged 9.5 impact plays per game. An impact play in the Malzahn offense has been worth 3.82 points. Malzahn is 54-9, when producing at least 8 impact plays per game. Where are they likely to go in terms of personnel distribution? 49.2 percent of Auburn's impact plays since 1992 have come from the WR position. 34.2 percent from the RB position. 6.5 percent from the TE position. 5.4 percent from the QB position. 4.6 percent from the FB position. With Nick Marshall starting at QB, look for the QB position to dramatically increase from the above history. During the 2010 season, Cam Newton was involved in 22.2 pct of Auburn's impact plays. This doesn't account for his passing but only is running and receiving totals. With the WR position accounting for nearly half of Auburn's explosive plays, it will be interesting to see which Auburn receivers step up as impact players in 2013. Darvin Adams and Emory Blakes were key play-makers as Auburn starters. 2013 opens the doors of opportunity for players like Sammie Coates, Jaylon Denson and Ricardo Louis. Also expect C.J. Uzomah do be a major factor in explosive plays this season. He had 5 such plays on only 7 receptions during 2012.
  14. During the past 2 seasons (2011 & 2012), the Auburn offense compiled 40 plays of 30-yards or more on offense. The 2010 Auburn offense generated 47 big plays during it's run to a BCS National Championship. Over the past 25 years of Auburn football, the Tiger offense has averaged 22 big plays per season. The 2010 Auburn offense easily maintains the record for the most 30-yard plays during this time period and likely for the history of the program. The 2004 Auburn offense was No. 2 on the list with 38 such plays. During Gus Malzahn's 7 seasons as a collegiate coach, his offenses have averaged 39 big plays per season. His offense is built around the concept of creating mismatches to exploit any weaknesses on any given down. With Malzahn returning to the Auburn stage, we could witness a return in big play ability on offense. The offensive line should be improved from last season and there are plenty of offensive weapons for Malzahn-Lashlee to take advantage of in 2013. The addition of Nick Marshall as the starting quarterback should enhance the abilities and opportunities of a solid group of potential "play makers" on offense. Marshall has a lot to prove in terms of developing a comfort level within the offense and finding consistency in his game but there is no doubting the explosiveness in his game. He must prove his worth on 3rd downs and will likely be brought along as the season progresses. Forget any Heisman talk for now and simply work towards consistency and everything else will fall into place. Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant and Jonathan Ford will benefit from having Marshall in the same backfield. Look for Jay Prosch to become the "forgotten" component to opposing teams focusing their attention on the explosive players. Prosch will likely go uncovered, when slipped out of the backfield just as Eric Smith was during 2009. Sammie Coates, Jaylon Denson, Ricardo Louis, Trovon Reed and Quan Bray will also benefit from Marshall's ability to adapt under pressure, while extending plays. With C.J. Uzomah bouncing around the field in various formations as the TE, Back, FB and WR, he will no doubt cause some major "match up" problems for the opposition. He had 5 explosive plays from only 7 receptions in 2012, so look for that production to increase in 2013. It will all start up front on the OL but I expect this unit to improve from 2012. The Gus Bus is tuning up as we speak....
  15. One of the highlights of the 2013 Auburn A-Day game was JUCO transfer, Cameron Artis-Payne, who was named Offensive MVP of the game. He was involved in the longest offensive play of the game, a 42-yard pass from Kiehl Frazier. The play... On this play, Auburn's offense sets up the defense with what appears to be a dig route to Jaylon Denson on the boundary side. At the snap, Kiehl Frazier sells the "dig route" by turning his shoulders towards Denson. (Note in Image #2 how the defense reacts to Denson) While Frazier sells the dig route, Cameron Artis-Payne slips out of the backfield into the flat. Frazier delivers a high pass, which Payne is required to adjust to the flight of the ball. Robenson Therezie takes a poor angle to Payne and barely misses making the tackle for what would have been a 2-yard gain. Payne accelerates down the sideline for a 42-yard gain, setting up a touchdown for the offense. It was a great call at the right time, executed very well by the offense. Again, the play is set up with the fake dig route to Denson and great effort by Payne. The combination of Payne and Tre Mason should give Auburn a solid running threat but the two should be dangerous weapons in the passing game too.
  16. Barrett Trotter is the last Auburn quarterback to pass for at least 200-yards during a single game, occurring 25 games ago during the 2011 season opener. It has become the longest drought by Auburn quarterbacks dating back to the 1982, 1983 and 1984 seasons. Auburn's leading passer over the past 25 games has averaged a mere 136.0 yards per game with a pass efficiency of just 120.1. During the 25-game period prior to the passing drought, Auburn's leading passer averaged 200.0 yards per game with a pass-efficiency of 166.0. During the past two seasons Auburn has started 4 different quarterbacks a primary reason why the Tigers have lacked consistency in their pass-offense. Though quarterback play is the most important element of any pass-offense, Auburn has also lacked consistency at wide-receiver the past two seasons. The last 19 games an Auburn wide-receiver has led the team in receiving, Emory Blake was the leader, 13 of those times. Of the 39 impact plays (15-yards or more) made by Auburn's wide-receivers during 2012, Emory Blake was responsible for 27 of them. Examining Auburn's top-3 wide-receivers from 2012, the most recent trio ranked as Auburn's No. 28 combination since 1970 based on receptions, yards per game, yards per reception and touchdown ratio. The same combination of Emory Blake, Trovon Reed and Quan Bray finished at No. 36 during the 2011 season. The combination of Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery and Emory Blake were No. 7 on the list during 2009 and No. 2 during 2010. Auburn's trio of Karsten Bailey, Tyrone Goodson and Hicks Poor in 1997 finished at No. 1. Emory Blake put up solid numbers as Auburn's primary receiver in 2011 and 2012 with 86 receptions for 1402-yards but there was a huge drop off after Blake. Trovon Reed and Quan Bray have been Auburn's second and third leading wide-receivers the past two seasons, hauling in 61 receptions for 473-yards and 1 touchdown over the course of 2 seasons. In contrast, Terrell Zachery and Emory Blake totaled 76 receptions for 1159-yards and 12 touchdowns during 2010 season alone. For the past two seasons Auburn has lacked the ability to attack the opposing secondary with multiple wide-receivers. With the departure of Blake, Auburn must now find the right combination of wide-receivers to test opposing defenses in 2013 not to mention a new "go-to-guy". Of Auburn's 5 returning receivers on scholarship, they have 6 combined starts under their belts, seeing action in a grand total of 95 games. The returning wide-receivers have combined for 71 career receptions for 635-yards and 3 touchdowns. Not only must Malzahn replace Auburn's top receiver from the past two seasons, the Tigers will likely accomplish it with a new triple-combination. Quan Bray and Trovon Reed might be the two most experienced receivers on the squad but neither possess the physical build of a typical Gus Malzahn wide-receiver. The situation is similar to the one Malzahn inherited entering the 2009 season. Auburn had 111 games of returning experience at wide-receiver accounting for 82 receptions for 947-yards and 1 touchdown. Gus Malzahn enters his eighth season as a collegiate coach and during the previous seven seasons, his top-2 leading wide-receivers possessed an average build of 6-1, 193 pounds. Of his top-2 leading receivers from the past 7 seasons, 11 of 14 were at least 6-0 in height. Those 14 wide-receivers averaged 47 receptions for 771-yards and 7 touchdowns per season. By the time the entire 2013 recruiting-class reports to campus, Auburn will have 7 receivers on scholarship over 6 foot in height. Returning receivers like Sammie Coates, Jaylon Denson and Ricardo Louis should receive a strong look this spring camp as Coach Dameyune Craig will have limited options until the summer. The veteran receivers have an opportunity to obtain a major jump on the true freshman coming in during the summer. Should Jason Smith move to the wide-receiver position, Auburn will add 5 new receivers to the fold, increasing the possibility of a true freshman making a major impact in 2013. Of the 5 new possible additions at wide-receiver, 4 of them is listed at 6-1 or taller. Montez Billings and Tim Hawthorne were Auburn's two most experienced receivers returning for 2009 but Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery ended up being the Tigers two most productive receivers that year. It was a prime example of how talent and hard work can overcome a lack of experience, especially at the wide-receiver or running back position. Just as the veterans have an advantage in the spring, the freshman receivers can even the odds during the summer should the veterans fail to deliver during the spring. Gus Malzahn's offense will utilize 7-9 wide-receivers over the course of an entire season but 4 of those receivers will account for 86 percent of the total receptions. Auburn should have 10 receivers on scholarship for 2013, giving Dameyune Craig more bodies to work with, when the summer rolls around. With 5 of the 10 scholarship receivers being incoming freshman expect at least one freshman to become one of the primary 3-4 receivers. With Malzahn's offense being more pass-friendly than the 2012 Auburn offense, Auburn should be able to develop a dependable receiving corps in 2013. The primary key to success will be the starting quarterback to obtain the most of the wide-receivers. As successful as Brandon Cox was as Auburn's starting quarterback, he lacked arm strength and mobility. Auburn's top-4 receivers from 2004, returned in 2005 but their production dropped due to the quarterback change. Courtney Taylor, Devin Aromashodu, Ben Obomanu and Anthony Mix hauled in 111 passes during the 2004 season with Jason Campbell as the starting quarterback. The quartet accounted for 17.1 yards per reception, 20 touchdowns, 51 plays of 15-yards or more and 19 plays of at least 30-yards. The same quartet returned in 2005 with Brandon Cox as the starting quarterback. They caught a combined 104 passes for 13.6 yards per reception, 12 touchdowns, 36 plays of 15-yards or more and only 4 plays of at least 30-yards. Much like the relationship between running backs and their offensive line, a good quarterback can make average receivers look good and good receivers can bring the most out of their quarterback. Hopefully, Auburn can obtain the most of both positions in 2013.
  17. After carrying the football only 15 times combined from the LSU and Arkansas games, Tre Mason had 18 carries against Ole Miss during Auburn's 20-41 loss last Saturday. One of the primary concerns in featuring one running back is his ability to pass-protect and to be a reliable receiver out of the backfield. Tre Mason has only 2 receptions on the season but they have gone for 34 and 22-yards. Though his pass-protection has been questionable at times this season, it is an area he is improving on, which was displayed on the following play. The play... On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 5 from their own 30-yard line. Auburn comes out in a tight formation with "trips" to the left and a TE on the opposite side. Scot Loeffler has a pass play called, which will place Emory Blake 1 on 1 with a safety playing over the top. Quan Bray and Jaylon Denson will run clearing routes outside and inside to create space for Blake running a square-in route between the other 2 WR's. The key to the play is the block by Tre Mason, who picks up the DT that beat John Sullen with a swim move over top. If Mason doesn't pick up the DT, he likely sacks or at least makes contact with Clint Moseley as he is attempting his pass to Emory Blake. Because Mason picked up the DT, Clint Moseley is able to step into his throw, completing his pass to Blake, who picks up 16-yards and an Auburn first down.
  18. After what appeared to be a step forward during a close loss to LSU 2 weeks ago, the Auburn Tigers took 3 steps backwards with an embarrassing performance against a struggling Arkansas team. The game was Auburn's 7th loss by 14 or more points in their last 16 games and their 9th overall under Gene Chizik. The Auburn defense started off slowly but after the first 2 possessions, the Tigers held Arkansas to 20-yards or less in 6 of the next 7 possessions. The defense did enough to keep Auburn in the game through the first 3 quarters but the Auburn offense failed to score during their first 9 possessions of the game. The stagnant Auburn offense resulted in a quarterback change at halftime but the Tigers managed just 1 scoring drive during the second half and 3 additional turnovers. When the offense finally generated a touchdown, the defense collapsed on the subsequent series. The offensive line played perhaps their worst game of the season, making Arkansas look like a top-10 defensive front. I'm not sure if Avery Young played on offense this week (I don't recall seeing him) but his recent benching has been a "head scratcher" to say the least. Auburn had two weeks to prepare for this game against a defensive opponent, one of the worst in the nation. Auburn finished with 321-yards, 7 points, 5 turnovers and 8 sacks. Auburn managed to snap their 16-game consecutive streak of being held under 200-yards passing. Though I understand the concept of changing quarterbacks to possibly ignite the offense, Auburn is now back to where they were last year, in terms of quarterback identity on offense. I thought Moseley did okay but the two interceptions were costly. Arkansas did a terrific job of neutralizing Auburn's defensive ends by chipping them off the line with their TE. Not only was the chip effective in slowing down the pass-rush, the Razorbacks also cashed in with the TE releasing into the flat after the chip to generate 3 impact plays off the same play. Tre Mason finished the game with just 6 carries, which is perplexing since he has been Auburn's most efficient and consistent running back. Mike Blakely has the potential to be a solid running back but I don't understand why the coaches have been so reluctant in allowing Mason to be the featured back. How are any of the backs expected to develop a rhythm on 6-9 carries per game? At minimum, it certainly doesn't make sense that he has a grand total of 15 carries during the last 2 game. Inside the Numbers… The Auburn offense was more effective on first down this Saturday, finishing with 6.5 yards per play. Auburn averaged 5.1 yards on first during the first half and 7.6 yards during the second half. Auburn's opponent has averaged more yards on first down plays in 17 of the last 22 games, which includes 10 of the last 11 games. Kiehl Frazier finished the game with a pass rating of 120.8 and Clint Moseley finished with a 123.8 rating. The "spark" attempt failed for the most part and now the coaches are faced with the beginning stages of a quarterback controversy. Auburn has scored a total of 15 offensive touchdowns during their last 10 conference games and 5 of those came against Ole Miss last season. Emory Blake recorded his 6th career 100-yard game with 10 receptions for 118-yards. Blake is currently on pace for an 800-yard season. 11 different players were targeted in the Auburn pass-offense against Arkansas. Emory Blake has been targeted 23 times during the last 2 games. DeAngelo Benton, Jaylon Denson and Ricardo Louis recorded their first receptions of the season. In only 2 of Auburn's last 16 games, Auburn has registered more tackles for loss than their opponent. Their opponent has consistently won the line of scrimmage. During the 28 conference games under Gene Chizik, Auburn has recorded more tackles for loss than their opponent only 5 times. Auburn's quarterbacks were sacked 8 times and hurried 7 times against Arkansas. Auburn's defensive line accounted for 18.8 percent of the tackles, their lowest output all season. Auburn has scored in 60.0 percent of their regulation quarters through 5 games, the 3rd worst percentage over the past 32 seasons (1981-2012). In 9 of their last 16 games, Auburn has been shutout during the 4th period. During the past 2 seasons, Auburn has been outscored in the second period, 146 to 67 and 100 to 54 during the 4th quarter. With Auburn falling to 1-4 on the season, it marks only the 4th time Auburn has began the season with only 1 victory during their first 5 games since 1951. The 1952 team went 2-8, the 1975 team went 4-6-1 and the 1998 team went 3-8-0. With one of the worst offenses at the FBS level this season and a Jekyll and Hyde defense, it's not likely this team will win enough games to garner a bowl invitation. The concern for the current coaching staff is whether or not the team will begin to slip away from them. Auburn came into the season with a lack of senior leadership, which makes the coach's job even more difficult to keep their personnel focused. At this point Auburn needs to treat each game like a 1 game season. The only goal should be improving execution and nothing more. Before Auburn can win another game, they must win the possession and before they win the possession, they have to win the play. Not only do the players need to look in the mirror but the coaches also need to revaluate their preparation during game week and their game plans for Saturday. With the extra week off, it appears the players and coaches missed out on the opportunity to improve. Arkansas came into the game with only 2 forced turnovers and 4 sacks on the season. Against Auburn the Razorbacks had 8 sacks and 5 forced turnovers. For every offensive touchdown Auburn has scored this season, they have turned the ball over 3 times. The self-inflicted miscues this team has battled through this season is a strong indicator of how poorly prepared the Tigers have been this year. As long as this continues Auburn will fail to perform consistently and will fall victim to additional lopsided defeats. Should Auburn finish the season 3-9 or 4-8 with 5-6 blowout losses, it would certainly require a strong consideration for changes all the way to the top of the program. It's not about where the team is now but how they arrived here and what direction are they taking from this point on. Initially 2011 was thought to be a steppingstone for 2012 and 2012 has now turned into a steppingstone for 2013. How many stones must this program now take after 4 years to prevent being stepped upon?
  19. Through 4 games we have witnessed plenty of motion and shifting by the Auburn offense but not enough yards and points. The immediate assumption is there is something severely lacking in "play calling" but I believe it is more a lack of execution than it is play calling. I support this opinion based on the fact 68% of Auburn's offensive possessions have produced at least 1 first down, better than the 2009 and 2011 Auburn offense. The 2012 Auburn offense also has a "3 & out" percentage of 25 percent, 6th best among Auburn offenses over the past 20 years. Offensive production took a nose dive against LSU but that was expected because of the caliber of the LSU defense and Auburn's offensive issues, especially in the passing game. Lost in the dismay of the overall production of the offense was the misdirection plays Scot Loeffler called against LSU in an attempt to generate offense against a superior defense. The play... On this play Auburn faces a 2nd & 14 from the LSU 29-yard line. Auburn comes out in what appears to be a 3-WR bunch set but Onterio McCalebb (lined up as WR) will motion back into the backfield before the snap. As McCalebb begins his motion, the LSU defense is now focused on the speedster, who appears to be setting up the speed-sweep. Just as McCalebb arrives in the backfield, the ball is snapped and Kiehl Frazier spins around to fake the speed-sweep to McCalebb, which freezes the defense. Philip Lutzenkirchen will crash down on the DE and Jaylon Denson will crash down on the OLB. Greg Robinson will drop out to pull to his left as Frazier makes a quick pitch to Tre Mason. The play initially appears to be going right with McCalebb but it's a misdirection toss play to Mason going left. Mason follows behind Greg Robinson, who blows out the CB on the left allowing Mason to dart down the sideline for a 26-yard gain. The play set up Auburn's only offensive TD of the game. If you haven't seen the play closely, go back and watch it. The possession starts with 1:02 remaining in the first period. Jaylon Denson does a perfect job taking out the OLB and staying with him (very physical). LSU's corner makes no attempt get around Greg Robinson, throwing his hands out to embrace for the "train" headed his way. J.C. Copeland would have been proud.
  20. Last season the Auburn pass-offense was No. 8 in the Southeastern Conference, generating impact plays or plays of 15-yards or more. There were multiple reasons why the Auburn passing game struggled in 2011 and one of them was the overall performance of the wide receiver position. Entering spring practice in 2012, the wide receiver position was a concern and remains a concern with the conclusion of spring practice. Though the primary objective this spring was to install Scot Loeffler’s offense, comments by position coach Trooper Taylor indicated the wide receivers were not progressing as hoped. Besides Emory Blake, seven other scholarship wide receivers participated during spring practice and they were shuffled around, auditioning for three openings. If the 2012 Auburn pass-offense is to improve from last season, the Tigers must find another dependable receiver not named Emory Blake. Possessing an “elite” receiver would help but consistency as a group is the winning formula the Auburn coaching staff is searching for. Since 1986, Auburn’s wide receivers as a group have averaged at least 15-yards per reception in 9 of 26 seasons. During the 9 seasons Auburn’s receivers averaged at least 15-yards per catch, the Tigers compiled a record of 95-15-2 (.857). During the remaining 17 seasons below 15-yards per reception, Auburn compiled a record of 126-76-3 (.622). Under Gus Malzahn, the majority of Auburn’s pass attempts were targeted in the short and long-range zones. Scot Loeffler will place a higher premium on the intermediate targeted area, which will involve the tight end position too. This should increase Auburn’s ability to generate more impact plays in the passing game. During the 2009 and 2010 campaigns, over 43 percent of the receptions made by the wide receivers were impact plays, which dropped to 35 percent in 2011. Since 1992, Auburn has compiled a record of 90-17-2 (.835), when the offense generates 8 or more impact plays during a game. Since 2000, Auburn’s record is 60-9-0 (.869) with at least 8 impact plays. Because the pass-offense accounts for 66 percent of the impact plays, it’s easy to see why the production of Auburn’s receivers is critical towards the improvement of the offense. Though “impact” plays account for only 11 percent of the offensive snaps since 1992, it accounted for 51 percent of the total yardage gained. Since 1992, 35 percent of the receptions made by Auburn wide receivers have been impact plays. During that same time frame, 6 Auburn teams have exceeded 40 percent, compiling a record of 62-15-0 (.805). The remaining 14 Auburn teams combined for a 107-60-2 record (.639). Two of Gus Malzhan’s three pass-offenses at Auburn exceeded 40 percent but the 2011 offense did not. Last season Auburn’s wide receivers averaged 13.7 yards per reception, 18th best over the past 25 seasons. Because Auburn lacked big-play ability in their passing game, Auburn threw a higher number of perimeter passes, which opposing defenses easily defended. The Tigers lack of a consistent intermediate threat, made life difficult for Auburn’s quarterbacks and receivers. If the 2012 A-Day game is indicative of what we can expect from the pass-offense, Coach Scot Loeffler will challenge the opposing secondary at every level. During the final scrimmage of the spring, Auburn ran many crossing and drag routes, attacking the secondary 10-15 yards down the field. Despite only 27 pass attempts, 6 of them produced impact plays, which equated to 43 percent of the receptions made by the wide receivers, resulting in an impact play. Added into the mix of intermediate passes during A-Day were square-in, comeback and slant routes. During the 2011 season, Auburn targeted only 22 percent of their passes in the 11-19 yard range, completing 34.3 percent of those passes. Auburn’s intermediate passing game was not emphasized enough and when it was, it was inefficient. The injury to Emory Blake skewed the numbers but this is the primary reason why the Auburn coaching staff is searching for additional productivity from the entire unit. Temple’s wide receivers operating within Loeffler’s offense produced impact plays from 39 percent of their receptions, which did not include an additional 13 impact plays from their starting tight end. The change in offensive philosophy will hopefully bring out the most in Auburn’s wide receivers but it will be a unit, which will lack game day experience. Of the veteran receivers returning in 2012, Emory Blake has 10 more career receptions than the remaining unit combined. Of the four veteran wide receivers, Travante Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton have the best career numbers. The two have combined for 29 career receptions, which has produced 16 impact plays and 20 first downs. Stallworth has averaged 15.7 yards per receptions and Benton has averaged 17.1 yards. Over 53 percent of their career receptions have resulted in an impact play. Trovon Reed and Quan Bray combined for 38 receptions in 2011 but most of their action was in the perimeter passing game. They combined for a paltry 6.8 yards per reception and 0 touchdowns. The four veteran receivers have a combined career average of 10.9 yards per reception, well below the national average of 13.4 yards per reception. Trooper Taylor is hoping Jaylon Denson and Sammie Coates will make the unit more competitive as they push for playing time in 2012. Incoming freshmen Jaquay Williams and Ricardo Louis will certainly get a strong look, when camp opens up in August. Schemes can make a major difference in productivity, especially for a player like Trovon Reed. Of his 21 receptions during 2011, only 4 resulted in an impact play because he was primarily utilized on screen passes. During the 2012 A-Day game, Reed caught 3 passes and 2 resulted in an impact play as he was utilized in the intermediate passing game. Though schemes can certainly bring about a positive change for Auburn’s wide receivers, it will still come down to the consistency of the individual players. The base elements of the new offense have been installed but it’s up to the players to make it work. During spring practice Auburn coaches and players commented on the goal of being the No. 1 rushing team in the conference this season. In reality for this to happen, Auburn must improve their pass-offense and there will be times they will need to pass to set up the run.
  21. Last season the Auburn pass-offense was No. 8 in the Southeastern Conference, generating impact plays or plays of 15-yards or more. There were multiple reasons why the Auburn passing game struggled in 2011 and one of them was the overall performance of the wide receiver position. Entering spring practice in 2012, the wide receiver position was a concern and remains a concern with the conclusion of spring practice. Though the primary objective this spring was to install Scot Loeffler’s offense, comments by position coach Trooper Taylor indicated the wide receivers were not progressing as hoped. Besides Emory Blake, seven other scholarship wide receivers participated during spring practice and they were shuffled around, auditioning for three openings. If the 2012 Auburn pass-offense is to improve from last season, the Tigers must find another dependable receiver not named Emory Blake. Possessing an “elite” receiver would help but consistency as a group is the winning formula the Auburn coaching staff is searching for. Since 1986, Auburn’s wide receivers as a group have averaged at least 15-yards per reception in 9 of 26 seasons. During the 9 seasons Auburn’s receivers averaged at least 15-yards per catch, the Tigers compiled a record of 95-15-2 (.857). During the remaining 17 seasons below 15-yards per reception, Auburn compiled a record of 126-76-3 (.622). Under Gus Malzahn, the majority of Auburn’s pass attempts were targeted in the short and long-range zones. Scot Loeffler will place a higher premium on the intermediate targeted area, which will involve the tight end position too. This should increase Auburn’s ability to generate more impact plays in the passing game. During the 2009 and 2010 campaigns, over 43 percent of the receptions made by the wide receivers were impact plays, which dropped to 35 percent in 2011. Since 1992, Auburn has compiled a record of 90-17-2 (.835), when the offense generates 8 or more impact plays during a game. Since 2000, Auburn’s record is 60-9-0 (.869) with at least 8 impact plays. Because the pass-offense accounts for 66 percent of the impact plays, it’s easy to see why the production of Auburn’s receivers is critical towards the improvement of the offense. Though “impact” plays account for only 11 percent of the offensive snaps since 1992, it accounted for 51 percent of the total yardage gained. Since 1992, 35 percent of the receptions made by Auburn wide receivers have been impact plays. During that same time frame, 6 Auburn teams have exceeded 40 percent, compiling a record of 62-15-0 (.805). The remaining 14 Auburn teams combined for a 107-60-2 record (.639). Two of Gus Malzhan’s three pass-offenses at Auburn exceeded 40 percent but the 2011 offense did not. Last season Auburn’s wide receivers averaged 13.7 yards per reception, 18th best over the past 25 seasons. Because Auburn lacked big-play ability in their passing game, Auburn threw a higher number of perimeter passes, which opposing defenses easily defended. The Tigers lack of a consistent intermediate threat, made life difficult for Auburn’s quarterbacks and receivers. If the 2012 A-Day game is indicative of what we can expect from the pass-offense, Coach Scot Loeffler will challenge the opposing secondary at every level. During the final scrimmage of the spring, Auburn ran many crossing and drag routes, attacking the secondary 10-15 yards down the field. Despite only 27 pass attempts, 6 of them produced impact plays, which equated to 43 percent of the receptions made by the wide receivers, resulting in an impact play. Added into the mix of intermediate passes during A-Day were square-in, comeback and slant routes. During the 2011 season, Auburn targeted only 22 percent of their passes in the 11-19 yard range, completing 34.3 percent of those passes. Auburn’s intermediate passing game was not emphasized enough and when it was, it was inefficient. The injury to Emory Blake skewed the numbers but this is the primary reason why the Auburn coaching staff is searching for additional productivity from the entire unit. Temple’s wide receivers operating within Loeffler’s offense produced impact plays from 39 percent of their receptions, which did not include an additional 13 impact plays from their starting tight end. The change in offensive philosophy will hopefully bring out the most in Auburn’s wide receivers but it will be a unit, which will lack game day experience. Of the veteran receivers returning in 2012, Emory Blake has 10 more career receptions than the remaining unit combined. Of the four veteran wide receivers, Travante Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton have the best career numbers. The two have combined for 29 career receptions, which produced 16 impact plays and 20 first downs. Stallworth has averaged 15.7 yards per reception and Benton has averaged 17.1 yards. Over 53 percent of their career receptions have resulted in an impact play. Trovon Reed and Quan Bray combined for 38 receptions in 2011 but most of their action was in the perimeter passing game. They combined for a paltry 6.8 yards per reception and 0 touchdowns. The four veteran receivers have a combined career average of 10.9 yards per reception, well below the national average of 13.4 yards per reception. Trooper Taylor is hoping Jaylon Denson and Sammie Coates will make the unit more competitive as they push for playing time in 2012. Incoming freshmen Jaquay Williams and Ricardo Louis will certainly get a strong look, when camp opens up in August. Schemes can make a major difference in productivity, especially for a player like Trovon Reed. Of his 21 receptions during 2011, only 4 resulted in an impact play because he was primarily utilized on screen passes. During the 2012 A-Day game, Reed caught 3 passes and 2 resulted in an impact play as he was utilized in the intermediate passing game. Though schemes can certainly bring about a positive change for Auburn’s wide receivers, it will still come down to the consistency of the individual players. The base elements of the new offense have been installed but it’s up to the players to make it work. During spring practice Auburn coaches and players commented on the goal of being the No. 1 rushing team in the conference this season. In reality for this to happen, Auburn must improve their pass-offense and there will be times the Tigers will need to pass to set up the run. War Eagle!
  22. Last season, Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown of Temple combined for 33 rushing TD's, 90 runs of 10-yards or more and 21 runs of 20-yards or more. Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb combined for 15 rushing TD's, 61 runs of 10-yards or more and 11 runs of 20-yards or more. Under Scot Leoffler, Pierce and Brown improved on their 2010 totals of 17 rushing TD's, 52 runs of 10-yards or more and 16 runs of 20-yards or more. A key element in Leoffler's run-offense is the misdirection and counter plays, which takes advantage of the vision and lateral skills his running backs possess. Mike Blakely, Tre Mason and Corey Grant all possess quickness and great lateral movement, which should make Auburn's run-offense in 2012 extremely competitive. Of those 3 backs, Blakely has quick feet and great vision, allowing him to change direction in his quest to extend each running play. The play... On this play Auburn will run their zone-read counter play. At the snap, Blakely takes the hand off from Zeke Pike, moving from his left to right during his first 2 steps. Blakely will cut back to his left, following behind CJ Uzomah, who is pulling right to left. Blakely has the option of taking the play inside or bouncing it outside. On this particular occasion, Blakely hits the A-gap, where he will encounter Jermaine Whitehead closing in on the point of attack. Blakely will dip his left shoulder as if he intends to continue forward but will cut back to his right after Whitehead commits to the inside angle. The cutback... Blakely bounces the play back to the right (wide side), where he will turn up field for a 27-yard gain. Anthony Morgan and Jaylon Denson do a terrific job of walling off the wide side of the field, allowing Blakely to turn the play up the sideline for a big gain. Blakely is blessed with the ability to make the first defender miss out on the tackle, which increases his opportunity to make "impact" plays. Though McCalebb is Auburn's only experienced RB, look for the younger backs to improve as the season progresses as they find their comfort zone within the offense.
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