Auburn Can Still Be A Good Team If …
Auburn football entered the season as most teams do—with high hopes. A new five-star quarterback, a talented group of receivers and two All-SEC-caliber running backs had fans salivating over the prospects of a rejuvenated offense. However, after the offense failed to show up against No. 3 Clemson, many wondered if the Tigers will even have a winning season.
It was a hard game to watch if you pull for Auburn. I won’t belabor the poor stats but just say that Clemson defenders spent about as much time in the Auburn backfield as the running backs did. It was something that I can’t ever remember happening to an Auburn team, and I’ve been following the Tigers for over 50 years.
Since the horn blew Saturday night in Memorial Stadium, questions of why have flooded twitter and message boards. These blame the head coach, the new offensive coordinator, the new quarterback, the offensive line, or the fact running back Kerryon Johnson is injured and Kam Pettway was playing with an injured foot.
But personally, I was afraid this kind of thing might happen when the depth chart was released before the season and two redshirt sophomores were listed on the left side of the offensive line, one of which was made the starting blind-side tackle despite having only one year experience as a reserve offensive lineman and one year as a D-lineman in high school.
Those fears were heightened when Georgia Southern had eight tackles for a loss, including three sacks, in the Tigers’ opener. I tried to soothe my anxiety by the knowledge the biggest improvement for teams usually comes between game one and game two. So I was hopeful—then the Clemson debacle happened.
After the game, Coach Malzahn said every aspect of the offense will be examined this week. And that’s a must. But there is one glaring facet that practically yells for change and change fast—the offensive line.
Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter who calls the plays, who is the running back, or who is the quarterback—if the line is not able to get the job done, it ain’t gonna happen. To that end, I think it will go a long way to improving the offense if the Tigers put some seasoned veterans on the first-team offensive line.
Now I don’t presume to be as football-smart as the coaches, but here are a few options that could be considered: move last year’s starting left tackle, senior Darius James, back to his old job and put graduate transfer Wilson Bell, who was honorable mention All-ACC after starting 18 games for Florida State, at guard. And then there’s the first-team All-American transfer from Jax State, Casey Dunn. Those are three guys who have done it before (and in big-time games).
In football, everything begins up front. The front five is the foundation for the entire offense. Much like a house will not stand that has been built on a weak foundation, a football team is only as good as its offensive line. If that can be fixed against Mercer and Missouri then, as Acid Reign said yesterday, “This can still be a good team, ‘if ‘ they fight through and improve on offense.”