While the Auburn offense has picked up chunk yardage of the 10-yard gain variety in the running game at a decent clip this season, longer scrimmage plays in both has been difficult to come by.
That's a trend the Tigers will try to reverse against an Arkansas defense that ranks last in the SEC in giving up long rushing plays and toward the bottom of the league in long passing plays allowed.
Auburn has only one running play by Anthony Schwartz that has gone for 40 or more yards and only two that have picked up more than 30. The Tigers also rank next to last in the SEC with 45 passing plays of 10 or more yards, well behind SEC leaders Alabama and LSU, which have 88 such plays.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said it's very important for the Tigers to generate more explosive plays on offense going forward.
"Whether it is running plays or passing plays, we have to create explosive plays," he said. "When we do that, we are a good offense; when we don’t, we are average. The emphasis is not just for the running or passing game, but however you can get them; hopefully that will continue. We did a solid job of that up until our last game and we need to get back to explosive plays."
Key to getting more explosive plays will be getting wide receiver Anthony Schwartz more involved. Schwartz has rushed the ball only five times this season, matching the number of receptions he has. Against Florida, he was targeted sparingly and only attempted one run.
"Any time you’ve got a playmaker like him, especially when you have an off-week, you have more ways to get your playmakers involved.," Malzahn said. "We have other playmakers, too; it wasn’t just him. We’ve got to give certain guys certain chances, and that was part of the evaluation over the off-week, but Schwartz is a dynamic guy with the ball in his hands. We need to figure out ways, and we talked about that last week, too, but we’ll have a good plan moving forward, not just for him, but our guys that are capable of making explosive plays."
The Tigers will also look to get more out of Shaun Shivers, especially with the absence of running back JaTarvious Whitlow, who will miss four to six weeks after suffering a knee injury against the Gators.
Shivers most productive game came in week three against Kent State, where he rushed 12 times for 102 yards. But Shivers didn't even get a carry last week against the Gators.
"He’s an effective tailback; we just have to give him opportunities in space," said Malzahn. "He runs between the tackles well, too. Without Whitlow now, he is going to get more opportunities, but we are really high on him and I think he is capable of making explosive plays. I think it’s a little bit of a lot of things, what he does well, trying to get him in some one-on-one situations."
Playing at a fast pace on offense might also factor in to the Tigers' strategy to get more explosive plays on offense.
"I don’t want to say it completely simplifies things, but a lot of times when you play fast, you are able to have snaps, plays and have options and everything that goes with that," said Malzahn. "We really worked hard on getting back to the basics. A lot of times in off-weeks, that is what you do as a staff, but we worked extremely hard to do that and it goes back to explosive plays, too. When you have explosive plays, you are able to play fast and get some pace and get some first downs and then some. We really tried to go back to basics and are hoping it will carry over to equal out to playing fast and having explosive plays.”