Auburn Fires Offensive Coordinator

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette had no idea Auburn had fired its offensive coordinator, Tony Franklin, when practice began Wednesday.

When he found out afterward, the redshirt freshman was surprised. Then he considered what it meant to Arkansas.

"It doesn't affect us too much," Bequette said. "We knew we were going to have to come out and stop the run anyway," he said. "I think without (Franklin), they're going to come out and just try to pound it even more."

Auburn's experiment with the spread ended abruptly Wednesday, when coach Tommy Tuberville fired Franklin, who was hired in the winter to install the system at a school better known for its smashmouth style. The move came six games into the season — and three days before the Razorbacks travel to play at 20th-ranked Auburn.

"After evaluating where we are at this point of the season offensively, I felt it was in the best interest of the Auburn football program to make this change," Tuberville said in a statement released by Auburn. "I'm not satisfied with where we are and I am personally going to take a larger role with the offense the remainder of the season."

Auburn had clearly struggled. It enters Saturday's game ranked 104th in the nation in total offense (309.2 yards a game) and 103rd in scoring (18.7 points). The Tigers also are 103rd in passing offense (160.7) and have scored five touchdowns in four Southeastern Conference games.

Tuberville hired Franklin shortly after firing former coordinator Al Borges last winter. Franklin and the spread offense made its debut during the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the early results were promising — 423 yards.

But nothing has gone smoothly in its first full season.

"I think it hasn't worked because of inconsistency," Auburn quarterback Kodi Burns, a former Fort Smith Northside High star, said earlier this week. "Penalties and dumb decisions have killed us all year."

Burns was one of several Auburn players who voiced their concerns about the offense after the Vanderbilt loss.

The uneasiness prompted Tuberville to spend much of the week defending Franklin and the system. He said Auburn would continue to run the spread with Franklin in charge and added that it was no time to panic.

But all that changed Wednesday and it caught several Arkansas players by surprise.

"I thought it was kind of crazy to get rid of an offensive coordinator in the middle of the season," defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard said. "But every program goes through things. We just have to adjust to it on our side."

The Razorbacks said the move shouldn't alter their preparation for the Tigers. Arkansas expected Auburn to return to basics after the Vanderbilt loss.

Coach Bobby Petrino said the Razorbacks studied tape of Auburn's offense from last season. He said Arkansas must be prepared for the spread, especially on passing downs, but knows things will be different without Franklin.

"I think we all know they'll probably run the ball a lot more," Petrino said. "They have a physical offensive line and they have great running backs. ...

"You feel bad for Tony. You feel bad for any coach that gets fired. That is part of the profession."

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