With the Tigers currently in their first, and only, bye week of the 2020 football schedule, the Auburn coaching staff is using this time to self-scout as it prepares for the next four games.
One of the things that will really stand out on the game videos is how much better the offensive line was in game six, a 48-11 rout of LSU, than it was in the season-opening win vs. Kentucky and the game two loss at Georgia.
Auburn’s new offensive line coach, Jack Bicknell Jr., has had his hands full putting together an effective starting lineup from a group that returned just one starter from the 2019 roster. Adding a higher degree of difficulty to the task was the combination of preseason injuries in the group along with Covid protocols that kept key players from participating in much-needed practices.
Even after losing starting guard Brandon Council for the rest of the season to a game five knee injury, the group took a big step forward vs. LSU after making progress in previous games. Rushing for more than 200 yards in four consecutive Southeastern Conference games is a sign that Bicknell is doing a solid job with the big guys he is coaching.
Considering the lack of game experience up front, it makes sense to think this bunch will continue to improve with added seasoning.
The defensive line also came through with its best game vs. LSU, finishing the contest with four quarterback sacks and controlling the running backs. The Bayou Bengals left town with just 32 rushing yards on 27 carries, with the home team’s defensive front playing a major role in that happening.
LSU was averaging 42 points per game when it arrived at Jordan-Hare Stadium and scored just three points off the Auburn defense’s first team.
Coach Rodney Garner’s front four helped rattle the opposing quarterback, freshman T.J. Finley, prompting LSU to give him the hook in the third quarter with Auburn dominating the action.
The potential is there for continued improvement on the defensive front with an extra week of healing for a group featuring eight newcomers that has been adjusting to SEC level competition while also having to deal with injury issues.
Back in preseason, Coach Gus Malzahn said his team had the potential to improve in the second half of the season if his guys stayed diligent, both on and off the field, in making that happen.
While it is difficult to predict what is going to happen in this unusual season of college football, it looks like it is safe to say the Tigers are improving and have a chance to keep that going when they take the field again on Nov.14 at Mississippi State.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter