Auburn Football: 10 Reasons the Tigers Won't Miss Gus Malzahn
The Auburn Tigers head into a new offensive era when they take to the field September 1. Gus Malzahn did good things while he was at Auburn, but there are a number of reasons the Tigers won’t miss him on the Plains this season.
Auburn will bring a variety of formations to the field, adding multiplicity to the offense that was not present with Malzahn. Auburn dedicated virtually every snap to the shotgun formation under Malzahn’s leadership.
Auburn will now have a true downhill rushing attack and will have a chance to control the clock much more efficiently than with the Malzahn offense.
Gus Malzahn was a good coach for the Tigers, and he provided a plan that helped win a national championship. Now that he has moved on to his own head coaching gig, the Tigers are looking forward.
Here are the reasons they will never look back.
Time of Possession Will Increase
Gus Malzahn installed a fast-paced, no-huddle spread when he arrived at Auburn. The Tigers used the tempo of the Malzahn offense at times in his three years, but rarely did the Tigers reach Malzahn level “fast.”
There are a number of reasons that Auburn didn’t run the Malzahn offense full speed. The most glaring reason was time of possession.
Auburn struggled mightily on the defensive side of the ball during Gene Chizik’s first three seasons. Most of that struggle came from the number of plays that Auburn was having to run on defense.
The Malzahn offense is built to score a lot and do it quickly. In the SEC, every offense will be stopped by an elite defense at some point during the season.
When Auburn’s offense sputtered under Malzahn, the defense was impacted greatly. In less than two minutes, the Tigers defense could be back on the field.
With Scot Loeffler running the Tigers offense, Auburn will have improved ball control and increased time of possession—something the Tigers defense will welcome with open arms.
Downhill Rushing Attack is Back
When the Tigers welcomed Gus Malzahn to the Plains, there was an understanding that the Tigers would be a run-first team despite the spread formation of his offense.
Auburn produced three seasons of 1,000-yard rushers under Malzahn and saw quarterback records rewritten under his watch with Cam Newton guiding the Tigers offense. Malzahn produced rushing yards that can’t be disputed.
What Scot Loeffler will bring to the Tigers rushing attack is a pure downhill rushing approach. Auburn will line up with an All-American fullback in Jay Prosch and a number of talented running backs ready to tote the rock downhill.
Seeing the return of the I-formation and a more pure downhill rushing approach will be a welcomed change on the Plains this fall.
Tight Ends Get More Catches
In the Malzahn offense, the Tigers were not very effective at getting the football to the talent that is found at tight end. One of the best sets of hands on the team belongs to Philip Lutzenkirchen. Lutzenkirchen has only caught 44 total passes in his career.
At times, the tight end would line up in the slot position. Other situations had the tight end playing in an H-back role.
With Malzahn leading the Auburn offense, the tight end would be a sleeper passing target and a lead blocker for the rushing attack.
With Loeffler guiding the Tigers, Auburn will look to use the tight ends more often in the passing game. Auburn will employ a play-action, heavy-passing attack, and the tight end will serve the Tigers quarterback well as a safety valve.
Look for tight end production to return to the Plains and add an extra dimension to the passing game. Getting the ball into the hands of the tight ends will be a major emphasis for Auburn in 2012.
Able to Call Audibles at the Line
In the Malzahn offense, Auburn had points where the offense looked laughably predictable. Malzahn was very scripted in his play-calling and relied on repetition and speed to wear down the opposing defense. At times, an audible would have been nice.
The Tigers quarterback will finally get that chance in the Loeffler offense. Kiehl Frazier said this spring “we’ll have a little bit more freedom at the line to kind of pick a play. Coach Loeffler will be calling 95 percent of the plays, but we’ll have more leeway.”
The Tigers will benefit from the ability to adjust at the line of scrimmage. Instead of running a play that has zero chance of being effective, the Tigers quarterback can choose to make a change and produce positive yards for the offense.
Receivers Can Make Route Adjustments
Auburn had a severe inability to find open space in the secondary last year. It was as if the Tigers receivers were the worst in the country. Considering the highly rated recruiting classes that fill the sideline, lack of talent is far from the answer.
The Malzahn offense was so scripted that the Tigers receivers were forced to keep their route pattern despite the coverage that they faced. No adjustments were made at the line.
With the Loeffler offense, the Tigers receivers will rely more on timing in their routes than before and will have the ability to adjust their routes to the defense.
This will be a major change of pace for the Tigers receivers, but it will be a welcomed one as more opportunities should come alive with the adjustable routes.
Offense Built for Multiplicity
One of the major draws of the Loeffler offense for the Tigers was the multiple formations that it employs. Auburn has been one-dimensional with the pure spread formations in the past few seasons.
With the departure of Malzahn, the Tigers will be able to add new dimensions to the offense and make the most of key downs and positions on the field.
The Tigers will now employ an offense that will put the team in a more pro-style offense than the past three seasons. It will not only help the Tigers on the field but should also help Auburn on the recruiting trail.
Under Center Snaps Return
There were times in the Malzahn offense that Auburn would line up at the one-yard line in the shotgun spread formation. With one yard remaining, spreading the field makes little sense.
Malzahn did not employ an under center option very often when he guided the Tigers offense. There were rare occasions that a quick snap would come from under center, but those didn’t happen often.
The Tigers will now have a red-zone offense that actually looks normal. Auburn will also have a play action that will be deadly and remind fans of the 2004 season.
Under center snaps have been welcomed with open arms on the Plains with the addition to Loeffler to the Auburn staff. The change will bring good results for the Tigers offense this fall.
Say Goodbye to the Third-Down Draw
With the departure of Malzahn, the Tigers likely saw the end of the 3rd-and-long draw play.
By the time the Tigers were winding down the 2011 season, I don’t know a fan who couldn’t predict when the Tigers would run the lengthy third-down draw play. It was an obvious attempt at not being obvious with play selection. It never worked.
There were a few occasions where speedy running back Onterio McCalebb would break loose, but those runs were few and far between. Saying goodbye to the third-down draw will be a very happy moment for the Tigers.
Two-Quarterback System Won’t Exist Under Loeffler
One of the biggest mistakes of the Malzahn’s tenure at Auburn was the two-quarterback system that was halfway employed last season.
Very rarely does a two-quarterback system work out for the best. It was a disaster for the Tigers.
There was a lack of continuity on offense last season and adding an additional dimension to the offense by tossing out Kiehl Frazier to run the ball became extremely predictable.
Loeffler will build his offense around the talent that's found on roster, not try and force talent into the molds that he has preset for success. Look for the Tigers to be more effective this season with only one signal-caller guiding the offense.
Less Gimmick Plays
Gus Malzahn was an effective coordinator for the Tigers for most of his three year stint in Auburn. Despite that success, there were times where the Tigers could have used less gimmick type plays.
Malzahn loved to utilize motion often with his offense, leading to the opportunity for a trick play or two. The problem with the trick or gimmick play is that they aren’t consistent and rarely change the face of a game.
There were times when the Tigers had to rely on the gimmick play to make a spark happen offensively because the formations had become too predictable for the opposing defense.
Against big name opponents this last season, it looked like Malzahn thought gimmick plays were the only chance his Tigers had at scoring. There will be trick or gimmick plays that will happen under Scot Loeffler’s watch as well, but they won’t be a major part of the game plan.