Hoover, Ala.--On the surface last season’s Auburn offense was far from the ones that plagued the Tigers in years like 1998 and 2008, but for Gus Malzahn averaging 27.5 points and 370 yards per game was enough to send him back to his roots as a coach. Wanting to get things turned around and become the dynamic offense everyone expects from a Malzahn-coached team, he said that has meant putting his nose squarely to the grindstone.
“I’m the head coach and I’m responsible for everything,” Malzahn said. “When I say ‘we’re going to go back to being who we are,’ I’m going to have a lot more hands-on as far as from a football coaching standpoint. That’s not a cut to any of our coaches, that’s just me from a philosophical standpoint of making sure everything runs together. That’s what I’m committed to do this year.”
Even though the overall numbers for the season asa whole weren’t terrible, the Auburn Tigers scored just 26 total points in losses to Georgia and Alabama down the stretch when the defense finally started to come around. Because of that Malzahn said it’s important for the offense to do its part this season and give a defense more help, a defense he thinks has a chance to be improved.
“I think our defense has a chance to be one of the better defenses since I’ve been here, possibly the best defense since I’ve been here,” the head coach said. “That’s good and we’ll have to go earn it and stay healthy in some areas, but I feel good about where our defense is at and the fact that there is so much carryover from the way we finished the second part of the season.”
One of the keys for the Tigers will be getting back to being fast and that means playing with pace. That has always been a trademark of Malzahn’s offense, but last season it didn’t happen for one reason or another. Whether it was the quarterback not making a throw, a dropped pass, or a missed block, Malzahn said that was a constant problem a year ago and one they’re determined to fix.
“A lot of my focus will be on offense and getting our offensive woes corrected from last year,,” Malzahn said. “Playing with pace is going to be a big emphasis and really, execution. We’ve always prided ourselves on executing at a high level offensively and last year we didn’t get that done. I’m really focusing on that from my standpoint. I feel like we’ll be a lot more efficient on offense at all positions.
“It was really just the overall execution of all 11 positions,” he added. “That’s something we’ve always prided ourselves in, and we’ve been very good at that. Last year we didn’t get that done and because of that it made everything look really sloppy. Because of that it slowed us down and really changed who we were. We really changed who we were because of that and just really tried to win games any way you could.”
Facing a tough schedule that is front-loaded with Clemson, Arkansas State, Texas A&M and LSU the first four weeks, Auburn’s offense won’t have time to ease into the season. Malzahn said he believes the group will be ready because it’s something that is part of the core foundation of his scheme and something they are determined to get back to.
“If you look at the big picture and history of our offense we’ve always been very successful with pace until last year,” Malzahn said. “We’ve been very successful at executing at a high level with pace until last year. We know what it looks like and really know the changes we need to make and adjustments we need to make. Really, that’s what I’m focused on. I’m excited to work with this offensive group.”