This week has been one of reevaluation, adjustment and simplification at Auburn. According to the different interviews with Coach Chizik, the Auburn defense was simplified for the second time this season.
It appears that an Auburn team that was replacing the vast majority of experienced starters began the season with a playbook that was very complicated indeed. If what has been said in interviews by the staff is true, the defensive playbook was reduced to about two dozen plays before the Clemson game. It is now to be reduced to the neighborhood of one dozen plays in this early season makeover.
What seems to have occurred is a very common mistake: Instead of beginning the season with a simple defense that was fundamentally sound, it would seem that new players were simply plugged into a vastly complex system and expected to perform. This seems to have resulted in a unit that could execute a hugely complex system in an incompetent manner due to a lack of experience and time to grow into the system. Auburn fans will be able to quickly see if this was the case on Saturday.
If this is truly the case, Auburn fans should see a much more confident, aggressive defensive unit take the field this week. In the coming weeks, as these young players grow comfortable with the simplified defense, there will likely be more plays installed to allow a better chance against complex SEC offenses.
This adjustment will also allow the staff to utilize more players. The learning curve for some players is simply a little longer than others. There will be some that were simply overwhelmed by the complexity of the original playbook that will move forward and perform well in a simplified system.
What will all of this mean?
A simplified system will allow opponent offensive coordinators a much easier time in forming a game plan to face Auburn. Their strategies will be weighted more on creating and exploiting physical mismatches.
Improvement on execution and fundamentals from the simplified playbook should offset some of the advantages gained in this area. As the season moves forward and more plays are installed, as players become proficient in execution, the defense should be both more complex and fundamentally sound.
The fact that these players started the season with an awkward understanding of many of these more complex plays should make the growing period shorter in coming weeks. Auburn fans should see an immediate improvement in fundamental football. This should result in a competent and functional defense. Fans will see exceptionally physically talented opponents have success in this stage before more effective defensive plays are installed.
To put this in the simplest terms, the Auburn players will now be allowed the growing period fans expected to see from a team that replaced the vast majority of defensive playmakers. The three weeks that were lost were not completely wasted. The experience gained will be very helpful in speeding the learning curve going forward.