The first two games of the 2012 season have not played out exactly as most Auburn fans were thinking they would. In fact, it has been one of the poorest starts for a season in Auburn history.
Auburn does have two new coordinators for 2012, and there are some young players in key positions, but this does not explain the lack of success on the football field in these first two games. To pinpoint the actual responsibility of this lack of success, attention must be focused on the new staff.
The game plan for the Mississippi State game showed a complete lack of confidence in the players. Auburn played a soft zone pass coverage scheme that would make most high school quarterbacks salivate. The offensive play-calling was so conservative as to borderline on the bazaar.
It is likely these choices were the responsibility of Gene Chizik in an effort to cut back on the fundamental problems exposed in the first game. If this was the case, it backfired in colossal fashion.
It is very common for coaching staffs to overreact to bad first game performances. For Auburn, this proved to be a choice that only compounded the first week's problems with fundamentals. Changing the overall approach seemed to put the players in an uncomfortable position that led to more mental lapses and even poorer fundamental performances by several individual players.
This leaves Auburn facing week three without improving on the majority of individual fundamental problems seen in week one, like basic blocking and tackling. It also appears that a week was lost for the player’s development in the scheme Auburn desires to run down the road on both offense and defense.
This exposes a glaring weakness in the performance of the head coach. It is his job to oversee the basic development of the entire team. To change the overall approach to the game for players already experiencing problems with fundamentals is simply breathtaking.
The correct approach would have appeared to be simply focusing on fundamentals in practice while maintaining the overall approach to the game to provide stability. Auburn is now a team that seems in disarray and without an offensive or defensive identity after the first two games of the season.
This appears to be an even more drastic version of what Auburn attempted after the Clemson loss of 2011. In that case, it appeared to leave the Auburn offense without an identity for the remainder of the season. This year it appears to have been a disaster for both the offense and defense.
Perhaps it is time for the head coach to step back and allow the two new coordinators to run their show and be responsible for it. Simplifying schemes in the SEC has never and will never work. It is the toughest conference in college football for a reason. No team will rise to the top depending solely on superior talent.
It appears the majority of problems exposed against Mississippi State on Saturday were simply brought about by the overreaction to what occurred in the Clemson game. If Auburn sticks with the changes made between Clemson and Mississippi State for the next game, Auburn will likely again lose in spectacular fashion. None of the original problems have been successfully addressed, and several more were added with these changes.
Soft zone coverage against Louisiana Monroe will only lead to spectacular failure of the defense and another colossal blowout loss for Auburn. Predictable play-calling by the Auburn offense will again lead to anemic results as was the case against Mississippi State in week two and for the majority of the season after the Clemson game in 2011. Such play-calling does not help the defense—it only compounds the problem.
After changing both coordinators for 2012, it appears many of the woes experienced by the 2011 team were perpetuated from the top and not the coordinator level. Sometimes a good head coach needs to know when to get out of the way. In this particular case, it appears to be the case.
For now, Brian VanGorder appears to be Ted Roof’s twin, and Scot Loeffler is just another version of the Gus Malzahn that was so predictable for the last half of the 2011 season. Could this be the head coach's influence?
It's time for Gene Chizik to right this ship by whatever means necessary. It would appear his first approach was a step in the wrong direction last week. Maybe it is time for Gene Chizik to trust in the offseason hires he made and see what they can accomplish in week three.