An Offensive Resurgence?
The Tigers have a lot of parts returning!
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! What a difference a week makes. The Tigers have settled on hiring Chip Lindsey as the new offensive coordinator, and things have become much more certain, in my mind. I was worried about the hire, frankly. I think Auburn has to win 9 or 10 games next season for the coaches to stay employed at Auburn, and switching to a completely different offensive system would have been a huge risk. In Lindsey, head coach Gus Malzahn gets a coach with similar offensive philosophy.
Where Lindsey might change the offense up could be a lot more run-pass options. I’m guessing Auburn’s vertical stems passing routes philosophy will change, as well. Lindsey is reputed to be a good teacher of quarterbacks, which Auburn needed. Inconsistent quarterback play has plagued Auburn for the past couple of seasons. Can Lindsey get more than one guy ready to play? In the rough and tumble SEC, that’s a must.
Everything on offense begins with the line, and Auburn returns 3 starters there. The most critical spots are usually left tackle and center. At left tackle, rising senior Darius James stepped into the starting lineup after an injury early in the season and never relinquished the important spot. He is a mammoth, long-armed giant and is looking to finish his career at Auburn with a great season. At the same time James came into the lineup, senior Austin Golson moved back to center, where he had good year. With 2 years in that spot under his belt, he’s a veteran who knows what he’s doing. Add in senior guard Braden Smith, who could have gone to the NFL draft, and that is a trio of really good players returning.
A host of talented young linemen will compete this spring for the remaining guard and tackle spots. Expect sophomores Mike Horton and Bailey Sharp to be near the top of the list, followed closely by talents such as Tyler Carr, Kaleb Kim, Prince Michael Sammons, Deon Mix, Marquel Harrell, and Prince Tega Wanogho.
Tight end and H-back have usually been a worry for the past decade, and that’s again the case this year. Rising junior starters Jalen Harris and Chandler Cox return, but there’s precious little experience behind those two. The past couple of years, Auburn has often tried to get the running game going while spreading the field with extra wide receivers. That has not worked and, hopefully, will be scrapped. Likewise, adding an extra lineman has lost its effectiveness. Simply put, the lead blockers must become more involved in the offense.
At wide receiver, the Tigers lose Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens to graduation, and Stanton Truitt has transferred. A wealth of talent remains. Going down the list, we have Nate Craig-Myers, Jason Smith, Kyle Davis, Eli Stove, Darius Slayton, and Ryan Davis, all of whom played a lot last season. There is talent beyond those guys as well. I am quite excited about the prospect of a more developed passing attack with these guys on the field.
Every running back that had significant playing time last season returns this year. Hopefully, there will be fewer debilitating injuries, this season. The top couple of guys will be rising juniors, Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. Both missed considerable time last season with injuries. Sophomores Kam Martin and Stephen Davis, Jr. could be more involved in the offense. Malik Miller was having a promising start last season before he was derailed by injury. The Tigers should be dangerous this season at running back.
At quarterback, questions certainly remain. This week, we learned that last year’s starter Sean White likely will not be able to do full practices this spring as he recovers from a broken arm. Head Coach Gus Malzahn has been starting spring drills earlier and earlier, and it is said that drills will begin in late February this year. That’s too early for a guy who broke his arm on January 2nd.
I think the bulk of the reps will be split between senior John Franklin and incoming transfer Jarett Stidham. However, I’d expect Woody Barrett and Tyler Queen to try to make a move as well. All of these guys were highly touted recruits. It is time to see some results on the field at the quarterback position at Auburn.