Auburn coaches move around in attempt to improve lackluster offense

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Chip Lindsey will be moving upstairs, and Herb Hand will be moving downstairs.

Auburn football head coach Gus Malzahn announced Tuesday morning that offensive coordinator Lindsey will no longer be calling plays on the field after Saturday’s loss. Hand, Auburn's offensive line coach, will, after allowing 11 sacks to Clemson, return to coaching duties on the field.

“That’s really where [Lindsey’s] comfort zone is,” Malzahn said. “That’s where he was the last two years at Arizona State. It just feels like he can get a better feel for the defenses and everything that goes with that. [Hand] thinks it will be a good thing for him to run his offensive line up front. Those are the changes, and I think they will definitely help.”

Lindsey initially moved where he was coaching after a failed 4th-down conversion, an attempted wheel-route throw to fullback Chandler Cox, in the third quarter. Malzahn says that, after what appeared to be a nationally televised dispute between the two coaches before the play, Lindsey’s decision was his own.

“I think as a coach,” he said, “you always look at how you can improve and what you can do as a coach to make your players better, so it’s not an overreaction.”

“Originally, he felt pretty strong and felt he needed to be there with the quarterback and look him in the eye and all that. You learn and you look at things and what’s best for the team, and he feels very confident that it’s going to help him, and I know it will.”

Whatever the media presented the public concerning an interaction between Malzahn and Lindsey before that play, Malzahn says it was just him being an emotional coach. Auburn failed to convert rather than attempting a 55-yard field goal with kicker Daniel Carlson, who is 10-for-15 at attempts 50 yards or beyond in his career.

“I don’t remember exactly what [the situation was],” Malzahn said, “but as far as him going upstairs, it’s just the reality he feels like he can do a better job upstairs.”

Auburn’s 117-yard performance in Saturday’s loss was Malzahn’s worst career offensive output as a head coach. After saying his team was still looking to develop its offensive identity directly after the game, Malzahn look toward all the new pieces his team was still getting used to.

“Looking at this season, it’s the fact that we have a new coordinator, we have a new quarterback and a couple of new guys up front,” he said. “[Lindsey] is learning his offense, his players are getting used to him and that’s really the facts of the matter right now.”

Apart from the “new guys,” some of the older pieces have yet to find their stride.

Injured running back Kerryon Johnson, who left Georgia Southern’s game after suffering an apparent hamstring injury, moved around “pretty well” Sunday, Malzahn said. However, he says he is not ready to say if Johnson will be ready to play Mercer University this Saturday.

Starting running back Kamryn Pettway, who presumably played through the loss to Clemson with a heel injury, is expected to play. Pettway had 74 yards rushing in his season debut, but failed to continue his success after a 53-yard first quarter. He finished the half with an additional six yards.

Wide receiver Darius Slayton, who had three catches for 43 yards in a blowout win over Georgia Southern, is also day-to-day.

“Darius got hurt late in the first game and wasn’t able to practice,” Malzahn said. “He got in there six or seven plays just trying to do some different things. Hopefully he’ll be healed. We need to get him 100 percent.”

Whether it’s inexperience, lack of communication or poor play calling, Malzahn says he and his staff have a good plan moving forward.

“We can play a good overall game and our team is committed to that,” he said. “We are looking forward to practicing today and getting ready to play Mercer."

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