Inability to Develop Talent, Not Lack of Spread Offense, Is Auburn's Undoing
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The reasons for Auburn's demise in 2012 are probably too numerous to list in one article. But while the causes of Auburn's 2-8 record are up for serious debate, the switch from former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's hurry-up, no-huddle spread offense to the more pro-style attack of Scot Loeffler will certainly be at or near the top of that list.
Considering Auburn ranks 118th in the nation in total offense (298.5 YPG), that's certainly a reasonable argument.
Let's hold off on saying that it's the primary cause though.
Kevin Scarbinsky wrote a very insightful piece on AL.com about how the switch to the spread has been Auburn's undoing, with the underlying theme that Auburn's primary job is to beat Alabama and teams running the spread have had more success toppling the Tide than others in recent years.
What's happening across the state certainly plays a part in decision-making for both programs, but after overcoming all kinds of adversity en route to the 2010 BCS National Championship, the impact of what's happening in Tuscaloosa isn't as much of an issue now as it was prior to Auburn's 22-19 over Oregon on Jan. 10, 2011.
Tasting the ultimate success while recruiting at a high level, all while Alabama was at the top of its game, told Auburn that it can be successful just by being Auburn. But that identity has been lost due to the fact that talent is no longer being developed, and that's the case regardless of what offensive system is being run.
Auburn isn't playing at a high level because it doesn't have the players to compete at a high level. Considering the Tigers have reeled in top 15 classes in each of the last three seasons according to 247Sports.com, that falls on coaching, not scheme.
Quarterback Kiehl Frazier came to Auburn as the 50th-ranked player in the country according to the 247Sports.com Composite, and the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the country. He threw for 2,975 yards and 42 touchdowns as a senior for Shiloh Christian High School in Springdale, Ark., completing 63 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 1,164 yards and 22 touchdowns en route to USA Today Offensive Player of the Year honors.
During his first two seasons on the Plains, he has completed just 53 percent of his passes for 787 yards, two touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Sure, he achieved video game numbers in the spread offense and was recruited to Auburn for that very reason, but he has the talent to succeed in various schemes and hasn't developed the way Auburn's coaches anticipated.
Simply put, you don't win high school player of the year honors if you can't pass.
Trovon Reed came to Auburn as a 5-star stud that could stretch the field and make an immediate impact. While injuries have been an issue in years past, he only has eight catches this season while remaining relatively healthy. He has the talent to be successful in a variety of systems, but so far, has been a recruiting bust.
How much has the switch from the spread to the pro-style offense hurt Auburn?
Brett Mixon wrote in intriguing pieces this week on Bleacher Report tracing Auburn's woes back to its win over South Carolina in 2011, when Auburn made a clear effort to slow down the hurry-up, no-huddle offense.
The square-peg, round-hole approach worked on that afternoon in Columbia and four more times in 2011. It worked because Auburn had the talent to make it work, but has regressed since then.
The Tigers have been successful over the last decade utilizing either the spread or the pro-style offense, but the talent has to be developed. Auburn's coaches have been unable to do so, and that's the primary reason they're looking at a three-win season—not the transition from spread to pro-style.
It's a coaching issue, not a scheme issue.
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