Change your tune? Tony Franklin offers latest opinion on Auburn after heavy criticism early
In late September, with Auburn a week removed from a 28-20 loss to Penn State in Happy Valley and coming off a 34-24, come-from-behind win over a 1-3 Georgia State team at home, Tony Franklin spared no feelings. On his podcast, the former Auburn offensive coordinator said, in hiring head coach Bryan Harsin, the program “hired a weak man with no backbone.”
Hard to get any harsher than that. Thing is, since that win that felt like anything but, the Tigers are 3-1. They beat LSU in Baton Rouge, beat a ranked Arkansas team in Fayetteville by double digits, and just last week beat a ranked Ole Miss team by double digits. The only loss during the stretch was to Georgia, so in that way, Auburn is just like everyone else.
Well, Franklin has some new thoughts on Auburn, and they’re a little nicer.
“The last few weeks, I’ve said daily on my podcasts, they’ve done a hell of a job,” Franklin told AL.com. “I think they figured out who they are, and that’s the hardest thing to do because when you come in and you’re a new staff, all you do is go against your defense. You don’t know if your defense is any good. You don’t know if your offense is any good. You don’t know who can do what in the new scheme and all the things you are doing. Then, they play really bad teams. When you play really bad teams, you still don’t know anything.
Franklin said he’s seen improvement each week. He liked the defensive game-plan against the Bulldogs. Overall, he says the play of the offensive line and quarterback Bo Nix is what’s leading this resurgence of sorts.
“(Offensive coordinator Mike) Bobo has done a hell of a job figuring out who they are offensively and what to do and how to do it,” Franklin said. “The tight ends are more involved than they were. The biggest thing is that the offensive line has gotten better because the offensive line was bad. They have gotten a lot better. That’s what good coaching is. Good coaching is wherever you are every week is figuring out how do you get better? How do you fix what is broken? That’s what they have done.”
To be clear, though, Franklin didn’t walk back his previous remarks. He said he wasn’t wrong before, that the team was “soft” and not physical enough. But now things have changed. And, get this, he likes the Tigers if The Iron Bowl were to be played this weekend.
“If they had played Alabama Game 3, Alabama would’ve beaten them by 5 touchdowns, maybe more,” he said. “Now, Alabama has been exposed. They don’t have an elite defense. They have a good defense. It’s not elite. They have real problems, which you saw against Tennessee. They can’t get lined up.
“(Defensive coordinator) Derek Mason has done a hell of a job at Auburn, so I called it this week, I said, ‘If they played this week, the way they are playing at Auburn, Auburn would win 38-35.’ That’s my feeling this week.”
Fortunately for the Tide, Alabama plays LSU this week and Auburn plays Texas A&M. The 13th-ranked Tigers (6-2, 3-1 SEC) travel to College Station for the meeting with the 14th-ranked Aggies (6-2, 3-2 SEC). Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.