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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Congratulations. You just got 'Dored

After the LSU game, I felt like puking. My fiancee was very patient with me as I prowled the blAUgosphere for post-games and recaps and analyses, for anyone to tell me that what happened didn't just happen, like ripping up the lawn looking for my housekeys. In contrast, I didn't see* the Vandy game, but I'm just not motivated to comb the intertubes today. I'm pretty tired of it.


I'm totally peaced out on this offense. Our line has somehow coughed up its talent level. Our running game is completely horizontal. Our one quarterback gave up the crucial pick AGAIN, and our other quarterback can't get the coaches to take his training wheels off. I didn't see the game, so I don't know if there were any drops by the receivers - but hell, what difference does it make? For all the great recruiting we've done in the past few years, and for all the talent that has congregated on the plains... we suck. We scored two offensive touchdowns against Vanderbilt and didn't even move their defense in the entire second half.

While watching at this season's offense thrash and flail, it occurred to me that an offense ought to be thought of as consisting of two main divisions: the core, and the skill. The core being the synergistic play of the quarterback and the offensive line, and the skill being the receivers and backs. For the most part, the core starts with the ball and makes decisions based on a planned progression or scheme, while the skill receive the ball and then make plays with instinct and physical prowess. No such division can be complete, of course. The option tailback of yore, the modern spread quarterback, the hook-and-ladder play, the halfback pass, and even an improvising Tim Hawthorne blend the core with the skill - ideally, they should work together. But for the most part, it's how the game seems to be played.

Historically it takes an exceptionally strong skill to bail out a poorly-executing core (EG, Calvin Johnson couldn't save Reggie Ball from himself) and that's what we're seeing with Auburn this fall. From that perspective, we have two problems with our core and guess what they are hahaha
  1. The offensive line has been plagued by injuries and position changes and new blocking concepts, and have simply been outclassed. According to Jay G. Tate, the offensive line got rocked by the 'Dores in the second half. Judging by the fatherly comfort administered by Hugh Nall during the LSU game, these guys are doing all they can. This, to me, is the biggest change of all on offense... and the most baffling. The captain of our offensive line kept busy during the offseason by snapping the necks of anyone he could find - and they need to get their nasty streak back? Where did it go?

  2. The quarterbacks. One has the know-how but lacks the physical fundamentals required to see his ideas come to fruition. The other has immense physical gifts but either hasn't been taught how to play quarterback or hasn't been allowed to demonstrate his acumen. Again, I don't think it can be said enough that the only cure for Kodi's quarterback woes (the progressions ostensibly cut short by the adrenaline rushing through his arteries) is to play him consistently. This is entirely a coaching problem - but that dead horse looks pretty sickening, thoroughly beaten as it is.


I'm still not encouraged by our defense's LSU-and-post-LSU play. Against a thoroughly average team that I (homer that I am) believe we should have crushed to a fine powder, we held them to 4 yards a rush and 156 yards passing and were beaten by a second-string quarterback for the second time this season.

But you can't be too critical when you read this:
Upside-down frown: Defensive tackle Tez Doolittle said he saw some good things happen Satur­day night.

With starters Sen'Derrick Marks, Jerraud Powers, Michael Goggans, Antonio Coleman and Craig Stevens knocked out of the game because of injury, several young players made major defen­sive contributions.

Sophomore Zach Clayton spent almost the entire second half shuttling between tackle and end to help ease staffing problems. Freshman Neiko Thorpe also was pressed into full-time duty.

"I'm proud of the young guys stepping in, in this atmosphere and doing a great job," Doolittle said. "We still have games left. It's not the end of the world. We just have to come back, make changes and get back to work."

War Damn Eagle!

Special Teams
[cut short because my mother reads this blog]

What the living hell has happened to Wes Byrum? How did he go from the un-iceable gator-slayer to the nail in our coffin? It would have been humiliating enough to go to overtime against the 'Dores.... but for God's sake. Losing in regulation on a missed PAT?


Can someone explain why we suck so bad? I've got to leave it to someone who actually saw this game. All I know is that major changes are in certainly order.

Tubby recently said that we aren't running the Tony Franklin offense, we're running Auburn's offense. I read that and thought, nah, that's gotta be coachspeak for "We're still adjusting to this extremely difficult transition." Nope. It was absolutely true. We run exactly none of the Tony Franklin offense. Chris Brown writes this excellent blog, Smart Football - simple moniker, product as-advertised. The guy coaches, watches NFL, and watches college ball. And still he had the time to write this:
I recently wrote piece about the "Rise of the Terrible Spread Team," and while I didn't have this season's Auburn Tigers in mind, that's the connection a lot of folks made. And with some good reason: Auburn brought in Tony Franklin, a "spread guru," with the hype that the spread had come back to the SEC and that Auburn would light people up. And, it uh, hasn't happened that way. Hundred yard passing games seem like the norm, and the games Auburn has won have been on the strength of their defense. Most Auburn fans are fearful as the SEC season heats up, as everyone knows you need to be able to score to win games in that conference.

So public enemy #1 is now Tony Franklin. I might have bought into this, and agree that his offense has failed. Except they aren't even running his offense...

Franklin... was hired by Auburn, presumably to run what he'd been coaching and selling for over a decade. Despite outward appearances, that assumption is wrong. Every coach I speak to says the same thing: I don't know what they are doing at Auburn, but it ain't the Airraid. So what's going on? I'm not an insider, but my best sense is that the other coaches on the staff (including Tuberville) never bought into the system - maybe because Franklin did a poor job selling it internally, or maybe he thought he didn't have to - and now their offense is simply a muddle, a grab-bag of pseudo-spread garbage.


I'm not ready to blame Tommy Tuberville; he's an extremely smart guy and coach. But I do wonder: why in the world would you bring a guy in who knows one system extremely well but one system only, and then not run what he knows? ... [T]hey picked a guy whose background was in a pass-first spread, and then they shelve the passing concepts. It really boggles my mind.


[T]hey aren't good at offense right now, so they need to do something the coaches buy into. If it's not the Tony Franklin system then it should just be whatever they can find that will help them score a touchdown every once in awhile.
Yeah, well, fair enough.

But I'm still skeptical that reverting to a Borges style offense minus-Borges is the right thing to do. A first half versus Vandy does not a running game make, and neither Georgia nor Bama will fail to punish us for transparent smashmouthing. Now that we have driven a black-and-gold stake right through the heart of this ghoulish season and have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO LOSE, can we please please try the Tony Franklin system?

Cause, you know, the kids get frustrated:
We've got to figure something out. This -- man, I don't know. This isn't the Auburn I saw when I was recruited. This isn't the Auburn I saw last year. I don't what's going on. We've got to figure something out.
That was your man Kodi Burns, no longer keeping his peace.

This is the kind of season we will never, ever live down as Auburn Tigers. The kind of season that encourages the national polls to pass us over like in 1983, and 2004. The kind of season that fully crowns Bama as "back" with a win in the Iron Bowl. The kind of season that re-tars us as the also-ran cow college, the red-headed stepchild of Alabama.

*We were at marriage class, and afterwards visiting kinfolk. I decided that "honoring my woman" meant not checking the score while we take marriage class the day before she goes on Sunday call and I drive back to my home institution.

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