BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Auburn’s offense is a mix of new and experienced players this year as well as a different play-calling approach.
With head coach Gus Malzahn resuming play-calling duties, Auburn’s offense is approaching this season differently than last season when Chip Lindsey was calling plays for the Tigers.,
“Our philosophy is run the football and throw it deep,” Malzahn said. “And whatever the defense gives us, that's what we should be able to do. That's really the corps and playing fast. We're getting back to really playing fast.”
Auburn’s offense has a slew of returning players. All of the Tigers’ running backs returned this year with Kam Martin and Boobee Whitlow leading the group, all five of the offensive line starters are back, and although the Tigers lost their top two wide receivers, two other veteran wide receivers, Will Hastings and Eli Stove, are once again healthy.
The most-pressing question Auburn needs to answer is who will be its starting quarterback.
“Talking about this season offensively, our big question is our quarterback situation,” Malzahn said. “Joey Gatewood and Bo Nix, two freshmen [are] fighting for the position."
Malzahn said both are talented and have big arms. He also said they can make things happen when plays break down.
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"Both of them are really hungry for the job," he added. "We'll figure out in fall camp. We'll name a starter and figure which of those two guys gives us the best chance of winning.”
With a quarterback who can run, Malzahn feels Auburn has a good chance to improve on its third down conversion percentage.
“Third down, especially in our league, is vital to keep drives alive. Malzahn said. “The years we've won championships, I think we've been in the 40s. That's definitely a goal of ours. …Our quarterbacks will be a run threat. And when you have a run threat at quarterback, it really does change things from a defensive standpoint. And from a play caller standpoint, it gives you a lot more flexibility, too.”
Malzahn is also confident in his offensive line. After a season of struggles, Malzahn feels that the linemen are motivated by last year's criticism, and their experience is a key component of the offensive line’s improvement.
“Offensive line, all five starters are back,” Malzahn said. “They are five seniors. They went through some growing pains last year. They got beat up. They kind of got an edge about them. They went through spring against our defensive line and really held their own. They got something to prove, and I feel really good about that group.”
With a lot of preseason talk focused on the potential of the defense and how Auburn’s offense struggled last season, some of Auburn’s offensive players are using that to fuel their approach to this season.
“We gotta be known for our physicality,” offensive lineman Prince Tega Wabogho said. “We are playing with a chip on our shoulder. We got something to prove, and we are gonna play like that. We got a goal to reach so we are gonna play like that.”
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