In recent seasons the phrase “Auburn Fast” hasn’t accurately described the way Gus Malzahn’s football teams played the majority of the time. However, with the head coach resuming his role as the full-time play-caller and being more involved with the day-to-day offensive practices, a change in style appears to be on the way.
In preseason drills the Tigers have been working on playing at a high tempo on offense, something Malzahn’s championship teams in 2010 and 2013 were effective at doing. A rules change that forced college offenses to slow their pace when they substitute took the edge off of Auburn’s no-huddle, hurry-up style.
An officiating crew won’t allow the ball to be snapped until it determines the defense has had ample to time to substitute in response to an offensive personnel change. However, all too often in recent seasons Auburn substituted regularly on offense and that slowed the pace and likely impacted the yards gained and points scored in a negative way.
In an attempt to counter the rules change, the Tigers are working at keeping the same 11 guys on the field play after play. When that happens the defense, if it chooses to substitute, better do it in a hurry because the offense can start the next play as soon as the ball is spotted.
Having players like John Samuel Shenker and newcomer Jay Jay Wilson could make this strategy effective for Malzahn because those guys can line up at fullback, tight end and even split out as wide receivers. The combination of being able to change formations without substituting along with playing fast could be a recipe for success if the young quarterbacks are up to the challenge.
With all of the work that Joey Gatewood and Bo Nix are getting on playing fast during preseason camp, by the time the Tigers take the field in Texas to face the Oregon Ducks the hope for Auburn is that whichever quarterback is on field he will feel totally comfortable playing as fast as the coaching staff wants the offense to run.
If the Tigers can consistently crank up the tempo, a lot of good things can happen like tiring the defenses, which can lead to big offensive plays, or forcing defensive mis-alignments, which can also lead to big plays. “Explosive plays” is something the head coach says the Tigers need more of this year and a statistical analysis comparing Auburn’s best offenses on his watch with the weakest ones shows that Malzahn is right on target with that comment.
Recruiting picks up pace
After a slower start on the recruiting front than many of their SEC rivals, the Tigers have made major progress this summer and are up to 17 verbal commitments for the 2020 class that may include up to 26 players. Those prospects can sign in December or wait until February.
Two of the most recent commitments come from the state of Texas and fill needs in the secondary where the Tigers had nobody on board prior to last weekend when cornerback Marco Domio and safety Chris Thompson chose Auburn.
Domio, who is 6-2, 190 pounds from Blinn (junior) College, is a cornerback who is expected to immediately push for a starting assignment next year after choosing Auburn over LSU. He is originally from Houston.
Thompson is a 6-2, 199 safety from Duncanville High, who many thought was a lock to play for the Texas Longhorns. Auburn coaches like to say if they can get a prospect on campus for an official visit they have a chance. That is exactly what happened in this case with Thompson saying Auburn is the right fit for him even though the University of Texas campus is geographically much closer to his home.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter