Auburn's Burning Questions: No. 3 - Can the offense be faster than last year?
Several questions abound as the Auburn Tigers begin their quest to become the first team to repeat as SEC Champions since 1998. Leading up to the first day of fall practice on Aug. 1, Saturday Down South will examine the 10 burning questions the Tigers face in their quest to win back-to-back SEC Championships.
Auburn’s burning questions:
- No. 10: How reliable will the kicking game be?
- No. 9: How will Tigers handle success/off-the-field issues?
- No. 8: Who will be the biggest surprise?
- No. 7: What does the addition of Duke Williams mean?
- No. 6: Can Nick Marshall thrive in balanced offense?
- No. 5: How much can the secondary improve?
- No. 4: Where will the pass rush push come from?
- No. 3: Can the offense be faster than last year?
In 2013 it was a new coach and a new system. Still, Auburn was pretty successful in executing the first-year offense under head coach Gus Malzahn.
At times, the frantic pace of the zone-read made opponents’ head spin. While Auburn thrived in 2013 with its sped up offense, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema wanted nothing to do with it.
Both coaches started banging on that drum even before the 2013 season. Both lobbied to slow the game down, asking for defensive substitutions to take place within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock. Bielama and Saban cited it would be in the interest of player safety to slow the game down. A proposal was put together and given to the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel back in February. On March 7, the proposal was tabled citing overwhelming feedback in opposition to the concept. Of the 324 coaches that voted on the proposal, 74 percent were opposed
It wasn’t long after that, just 10 days as a matter of fact, that Malzahn said he wanted Auburn to go faster in 2014.
Is that possible?
“We feel like we can be quite a bit faster,” Malzahn said during his spring press conference. “(Last year) we have a lot of new people; a lot of moving parts. As you get more comfortable the faster you can get.”
Having the engineer of the offense, quarterback Nick Marshall, back makes it very possible for Auburn to be faster.
“He’ll be more comfortable, more reactive,” Malzahn said of Marshall.
With a goal of incorporating a vertical passing game for the 2014 season, the number of plays the Tigers execute per game could exceed its average of 73 a game last year. With five of the top six receivers returning, it gives Marshall experienced targets who know how to play in an up-tempo offense.
Running more plays won’t necessarily mean Auburn will win more games. Running plays in a precise and effectively fashion as quickly as possible gives the Tigers the best chance to win though.