Coaches have an intimate knowledge of their teams’ strengths and their teams’ deficiencies, and Auburn and Malzahn are the perfect example. Auburn has two main areas that need work before the start of 2014, and there’s ample time to correct them, via Yahoo Sports Radio.
“We had some deficiencies in some areas we were trying to cover up,” Gus Malzahn said. “It all starts with recruiting and now that we’ve had our defensive staff that has been intact for a year, they can specifically recruit to those areas.”
First, the passing game needs to develop. It doesn’t have to be great, because the running game will be, but it has to develop in an effort for the Tigers’ offense to create better balance. Auburn led the country with nearly 330 rushing yards per game, but they finished 108th in passing offense. It’s not so much where they finished, but Nick Marshall’s reads and progressions need to improve.
Isn’t it a great feeling knowing the offense was so one-dimensional and that there’s so much upside to a young and growing quarterback, and they still had so much success? It should be. Marshall’s got game, and, remember, he only had a few weeks to get ready for the season and create a rapport with his receivers in fall camp. With an added offseason and furthered development, the offense has a chance to be even better by creating better balance.
Malzahn spoke about Marshall on Yahoo! radio:
“He’s got a big-time arm, and we didn’t throw it a lot, but we really feel like he’s going to be able to do that, be very effective. We’re excited about him.”
Marshall does have a big arm, but the easy throws caused him the most trouble. The short and intermediate passing game should improve as Marshall’s touch improves. That will help create more opportunities on 20-plus yard throws, too.
The second area that must be addressed is the secondary, which ranked 100th in pass defense in Ellis Johnson’s first season. Losing safeties Josh Holsey and Justin Garrett were major blows to a growing team.
Granted, Auburn’s defense was the ultimate bend-but-don’t-break. They gave up a serious amount of total yards, but they played particularly well in the red zone and finished second in the SEC in red zone defense. If you want to be great in one area, it’s in the money zone. That’s a credit to the players and coaches. Another area the defense excelled in was on third downs. Auburn held opponents to convert 66 third downs on 200 attempts (33 percent), the best in the SEC.
An area that will help the secondary will be the pass rush. Yes, Auburn loses pass-rushing specialist Dee Ford, but rising sophomores Carl Lawson, Elijah Daniel and Montravius Adams should be monsters. The secondary has to improve in coverage, but the pass rush will help that.
The biggest turnaround team in college football isn’t going anywhere, and it should be exciting knowing they have an offseason under Malzahn and his staff to correct some obvious issues and improve.
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