The Chip Lindsay era at Auburn is officially underway following Saturday’s dominating victory over Georgia Southern. The Tigers were without their lone 1,000-yard rusher from last season, Kamryn Pettway, yet still accounted for 535 total yards, with 351 of those coming from the ground. This is largely thanks to Lindsey’s RPO, or run pass option.
For those who do not know what the RPO is, it is a variation of the option offenses, but this gives the quarterback the option to pass, hand the ball off or take off running himself in the same play. The purpose of the RPO is to find weak zones in the defense.
The quarterback can read a variation of defenders ranging from the linebacker to defensive end. Once the ball is snapped, the quarterback looks immediately to the defender who he needs to read, depending on what the defender does determines whether the quarterback hands the ball off or keeps it and looks for a pass.
It might seem like all the responsibility is on the quarterback, but the wide receivers have just as much as the quarterback. Certain wide receivers will have option routes that vary depending the coverage. If the defensive back plays man-to-man and on the line of scrimmage then the receiver might have an option to beat him deep. If the defensive back plays off then the receiver might have an option to run a hook or slant for easy yards.
Auburn uses the RPO to keep the defense honest and to prevent the opposing team from loading the box. In years past, opposing teams would load the box making it difficult to establish the run. Take the Clemson game from 2016, Auburn only rushed for 87 yards on 41 carries. This was because Clemson did not respect the passing game and they focused on stopping the run.
Now fast forward to 2017, Auburn is squaring off again with Clemson and this time they are looking for a different outcome. Auburn is going to want to use the RPO to keep Clemson's safeties and linebackers guessing on whether they need to help and stop the run or help defend the pass.
The key addition of Jarrett Stidham, who accounted for three touchdowns against Georgia Southern, might be the difference. Clemson will have no other choice than to respect the pass with Stidham under center, this should lead to a more effective run game than in the 2016 contest.
Clemson is returning two talented defensive linemen in Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, so it will not be a cake walk for Auburn. But without the extra players in the box to stop the run, Clemson will have their hands full come Saturday.