Final Record: 3-9 overall, 0-8 SEC
Coming off a national championship in 2010, falling of the proverbial football cliff is unexpected. So, when Auburn started the season 1-7, you knew head coach Gene Chizik was in trouble. It’s one thing to have a rebuilding year, but losing every conference game will get you fired. That’s what happened.
Auburn actually looked pretty good against a good Clemson team in the Chick-fil-A kickoff. If the Tigers could have found a way to beat Clemson, they might not have lost the will to live about week six, seven or eight.
Auburn’s three wins were against Louisiana-Monroe in overtime, New Mexico State and Alabama A&M. They played LSU very close at Jordan-Hare, but losses to a bad Arkansas team, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt sealed the deal and the fate of Chizik.
The Tigers then proceeded to lose to Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama by a combined score of 150-21.
Auburn went through three quarterbacks, from starter Kiehl Frazier, backup Clint Moseley and freshman Jonathan Wallace, with Frazier and Wallace being similar and Moseley being the pocket passer. Chizik’s decision to go away from Gus Malzahn’s spread offense led him to Scot Loeffler, which ultimately got him fired. Auburn was 114th in the country in scoring offense and 118th in total offense.
Chizik hired Brian Van Gorder on defense, after parting ways with coordinator Ted Roof. Van Gorder was a proven coordinator at Georgia before taking the Atlanta Falcons’ job. Whether by lack of talent or scheme, Van Gorder never could make a difference on defense. The linebackers struggled to make any tackles at all, and it exposed a weak secondary.
In the midst of the totally forgettable season, there were very few bright spots. Running back Tre Mason turned in a good year, and Onterio McCalebb finished in the top 10 in the SEC in all-purpose yardage. Linebacker Darren Bates had a good year and finished 6th in the SEC in total tackles with 94.
Offensive Stud: One of the only bright spots on the offense was running back Tre Mason. Mason managed to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark. He was the only player on the Tigers that was even mentioned by the AP All-SEC team earlier this week as an honorable mention. Mason isn’t the biggest running back, but as just a sophomore, he can help this team win some games next season under Malzahn’s offense. Mason led the team with eight rushing touchdowns.
Defensive Stud: Dee Ford led the team in sacks, but senior linebacker Darren Bates was one of the few bright spots. Bates led the team in tackles, totaled 5.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and one interception. One of the more memorable plays of the season was his 62-yard fumble return against New Mexico State. Bates isn’t the biggest linebacker in the SEC, but he’s a player.
Where To Next: Certainly, better days are ahead for Auburn after winning only three games in 2012. Gus Malzahn will bring energy, passion and an offense to the Plains, and he was Jay Jacobs’ guy right from the start. Malzahn makes Auburn cooler than Alabama, with a totally different philosophy on offense and football. He’s proven he can be part of a national championship, but can he direct one as the head man?
Photo Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports