It has been an exciting season so far for Auburn. There have been a host of positives and a few negatives to come up. With Clemson coming in this week, it is a good time to take a look at some things fans can expect to change.
In the first two games of the 2009 season, Auburn averaged 55 rushing plays per game. This has dropped to 47 in 2010, when it was expected to rise up to the 60 range. This has put the Auburn quarterback as the leading rusher.
This is not intended or designed, and Coach Chizik is not happy with it. Auburn must improve at distributing the ball to play makers.
The passing side of the offense is much the same. The Tigers have averaged only 18 pass plays per game in 2010 where they averaged 25 in 2009.
Simple math reveals that offensive play makers have had 30 less opportunities this season to make plays. This has resulted is less offensive production. It has also led to many Auburn playmakers who have yet to touch the ball in 2010.
Cameron Newton has been averaging 16 rushing plays per game during this time of lower play count. This percentage needs to change and has become a concern for Coach Chizik.
Newton has averaged 7.3 yards per carry in his 33 attempts this year. This is not the problem so far, to see that, one must dig deeper.
9 yards per play
This brings up the specter of a distinct and visible problem. When the Auburn offensive tempo goes up, and it will, how will fatigue affect the ball distribution ability of Newton?
To survive and produce the offensive numbers required to survive in the SEC, Newton must utilize the weapons around him more. His ball distribution skills must improve. To do this he must concentrate on the pass and let his running backs carry more of the load rushing.
Cameron Newton only averaged 5.3 yards per rushing attempt against Mississippi State. Mike Dyer averaged 5.55 yards per carry and Onterio McCalebb averaged 5.66.
It is very clear that these running backs can get the job done if utilized.
Cameron Newton is a legitimate Heisman candidate in the future. He has an outside chance at it this year. To do this he must do what is also best for the team.
Newton will never win the Heisman running for five yards per carry inside. He needs to make a statement with his passing ability and cut loose for those 18- to 20-yard scampers when defenses do not respect him. If he does this, he will have an outside chance at the Heisman this year and will be a favorite in 2011.
The best part of this is that he will be doing what is necessary to win the SEC. In 2007, Florida ran the Tebow show and he won the Heisman; they also lost several games, including their bowl. In 2008, Tebow distributed the ball to playmakers around him and won a national title.
In 2009, Tebow took the team on his shoulders and shredded the regular season schedule only to find out that the little used play makers around him were not ready to produce when he wasn’t enough. Florida had their championship hopes dashed out by an Alabama team whose play makers had been utilized and were ready to produce. The better team wins, not always the better player.
For Week 3, Auburn fans can expect a more settled and comfortable Cameron Newton to spend more time handing off the ball to running backs and passing the ball to the multitude of dependable receivers. This will likely increase his overall production and could push him into the Heisman race legitimately.
Clemson is confident that their defensive backfield can shut down the Auburn passing attack. This is a mistake that will cost them on Saturday. Expect the Auburn passing attack to come alive.