Auburn Football: What REALLY Happened to the Tigers This Season?
It goes without saying that Auburn's 2012 season was bad. Two years removed from the BCS National Championship, the Tigers finished 3-9 and 0-8 in the SEC, its first 0-8 season in the conference in the history of the program.
Auburn has reeled in three straight top 15 recruiting classes according to 247Sports.com, and you'd think that talent would negate poor coaching in at least one SEC game.
So how did it get to this point?
Kiehl Frazier came into the season with a reasonable amount of hype. Reports out of Auburn this spring indicated that he had picked up new offensive Scot Loeffler's offense and was ready to live up to the hype that followed him to Auburn—which included being named the high school Offensive Player of the Year in 2010 by USA Today.
There were two problems, though. He didn't pick up on the offense, and the offense itself was nothing short of a total disaster.
Frazier only threw two touchdowns, tossed eight picks, fumbled twice and was sacked 13 times in the first five games before Clint Moseley and, eventually, Jonathan Wallace took over.
Wallace was a spread quarterback in high school, and he improved once he was inserted into the starting lineup in November.The true freshman tossed four touchdowns, threw four interceptions and was sacked five times over the final five games of the season.
Not great, but certainly an improvement. That's how bad it was on the Plains this season.
By the time Wallace solidified himself as the starter, it was too late. The Tigers were already ineligible for a bowl and Chizik's fate had already been sealed.
First-year defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was supposed to come to Auburn and turn around a defense that had been mediocre ever since Chizik was hired prior to the 2009 season.
Instead, it got worse.
The Tigers finished 84th in the country in total defense in 2012, having given up 420.5 yards per game—four spots and 12 yards per game worse than where Ted Roof's defense finished in 2011.
Part of its issues were related to scheme and some were due to inexperience, but most of Auburn's issues were related to fundamentals.
The Tigers couldn't tackle and took horrible angles, leading to big plays. Both are displayed at the 0:45 mark of the video above.
The inability to tackle in the open field cost Auburn an opportunity to get the ball back against LSU down two points with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter (3:31 mark).
During the season, it's hard to focus on fundamentals due to the time spent game planning. Whoever takes over the Auburn defense in 2013 will pop in game tape from last season and see that getting back to fundamentals will be Job No. 1 when the Tigers hit the practice field this spring.
Lack of Trust in RB Tre Mason
For whatever reason, running back Tre Mason didn't get the carries he deserved in 2012.
The sophomore finished the season with 1,002 yards, but only averaged 11.8 carries per game over the first five games of the season. That's precisely the time in which Auburn needed to rely on the running game to get its quarterback comfortable with the offense.
Even when Mason was a big part of the game plan, he would disappear at inopportune times.
He had 13 carries for 47 yards and two touchdowns in the first half against Ole Miss, an game that was tied at 17 at halftime. He only had five carries in the second half, and the Tigers lost 41-20.
After the Ole Miss game, he averaged 15.6 carries per game, rushed for 102.2 yards per game and scored five touchdowns.
Too little, too late. Mason should have been the every-down back from the get-go, and he wasn't. That falls on Loeffler.
Auburn played sloppy all year long, which is a direct reflection on its coaching staff.
Whether it's lining up offsides on a key third-down stop against LSU or committing dumb penalties at inopportune times, it was always something for Auburn in 2012.
That has a tendency to snowball at times, and once it became clear that Auburn couldn't get out of that rut, the team quit.
For evidence, look no further than the combined 87-0 score in its final two SEC games of the season against its two biggest rivals.
The Tigers have the talent to be successful, and a quick turnaround wouldn't be a total shock depending on who is hired to take over for Chizik. In order for that to happen, the new staff will have to fix these four issues before moving on to bigger and better things.
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