Caldwell Column: Expect A Better AU Offense

Auburn's offense is coming off a disastrous season in 2012, but Gus Malzahn and company are just the guys to turn things around.

The old adage that defense wins championships holds true, but at Auburn there could be a new saying that may catch on with Gus Malzahn as the head coach of the Tigers and putting his high octane offense back in play.

"Play fast and score more" is the motto that Malzahn has coached by since his days in the high school ranks in Arkansas and it has carried over to his college years as well, and not just at Tulsa and Arkansas State. Malzahn's fast-paced offense that doesn't huddle changed the dynamics of offenses at Auburn and the numbers show just how dramatic those changes were.

In the previous four seasons (2005-2008) before Malzahn came to Auburn, and including last season, the Tigers scored a total of 1,455 points in 63 games. That averages out to 23.09 points per game. In those 63 games Auburn scored more than 30 points a total of 18 times with just six of those coming against SEC opponents. Much of the big numbers came in 2005 when the Tigers had six 30+ point games.

Now take a look at what Malzahn did as Auburn's offense coordinator from 2009-2011. In 40 games with the Tigers his offense scored a total of 1,344 points. That averages out to 33.6 points per contest. In 40 games running Auburn's offense, Malzahn's teams eclipsed the 30 point mark 22 times, including 10 times against SEC competition.

Those all resulted in a victory for the Tigers. In fact, Auburn has won 77 consecutive games when scoring more than 30 points. The last loss in that scenario came in a four overtime loss to Georgia in 1996. All-time Auburn is 293-4 when scoring 30 points or more.

Chris Todd had a big season in 2009 for the Tigers in Malzahn's first season at AU as offensive coordinator.

Even in 2011 the Tigers did some good things offensively with five 30 point games and two coming against the SEC. The real numbers came early before Auburn's offense was slowed by former head coach Gene Chizik because he believed that would help the team's struggling defense. In the first four games of the 2011 season Auburn scored 137 points (34.25 ppg). With nothing to lose in the last game of the season against Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Tigers torched the Cavaliers for 43 points and 454 yards of total offense.

The 43 points was the most in a bowl game in school history for Auburn, eclipsing the 38 scored in 2009 by Malzahn's offense in an overtime win over Northwestern.

Will Auburn break any offensive records in 2013? Probably not, but there's a good chance the Tigers will improve and do it in a hurry under Malzahn's guidance. With Rhett Lashlee as his offensive coordinator and offensive line coach J.B. Grimes joining him from Arkansas State, there are some pieces to the puzzle in place for Auburn's offense to take a step forward.

With an offensive line that returns plenty of talent and depth, and a backfield that returns 1,000-yard rusher Tre Mason along with physical juco transfer Cameron Artis-Payne, the running game should be the focus for the Tigers early in the season.

The question remains at quarterback as the Tigers go into the season still searching for the guy to take the reins. Will it be one of the returning players, either Kiehl Frazier or Jonathan Wallace? Can a newcomer win the job while learning the offense in preseason camp? Those are still questions left unanswered, but one thing you can be sure of is Auburn's offense will come out swinging on Aug. 31 against Washington State and everyone better take a deep breath and get ready for the hurry-up/no-huddle because it's almost time to get the show on the road.


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