Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Decision Time For Gus Malzahn About His Auburn Offense

Following another disappointing offensive performance it's time for Gus Malzahn to choose a direction on offense.

It’s Time To Decide Who You Are

After watching the last 16 games for the Auburn Tigers on offense I have come to the conclusion that it’s time for Gus Malzahn to decide what his offense is going to be and stick with it. For the second time in three games this year the Tigers were stuck between the notion of being a run/play-action team and also a team that has the personnel to throw the football to set up the run.

Now it’s time for Malzahn to pick one and stick with it. I think either could work, but it’s up to the coaches to put the players in the right position to make plays and have success. That starts with what we’ve seen the last two weeks with Sean White at the helm.

Against Arkansas State we saw the recipe for success for White, throw the ball on first down at least some of the time to keep the defense honest and let him work the middle of the field to keep the safeties honest. If a team isn’t worried about a deep ball then it can focus on playing close to the line of scrimmage, taking away not only the running game but also the short passing game.

That is what we saw time and time again for Auburn’s offense against Texas A&M when the Aggies consistently shut down the Tigers, especially on early downs. While we’re on that subject, Malzahn talked about the coaches putting the players in bad situations and one of those happened on the first play of the game. Asking guard Braden Smith to block defensive end Myles Garrett from across the formation was just asking for trouble. Doing it more than once made even less sense. If anything get some help from Chandler Cox or even bring in an extra offensive lineman like Darius James to give you more protection to help throw the football. I am not sure why that never happened.

Now back to White.

With this group of wide receivers and White throwing the ball on early downs this offense could be one to make some noise down the stretch if Malzahn will commit to doing what they do best. Tony Stevens has stepped up his game in the last two weeks and with Ryan Davis and Kyle Davis coming on as well there are plenty of weapons to deal with on the outside.

Throwing the football more only serves to loosen up a defense as well, allowing Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway a chance to make plays between the tackles in the running game.

The other option for this offense is to commit to John Franklin and become a downhill running team once again similar to what we saw from Auburn in 2013 when Nick Marshall was just scratching the surface as a passer. With Chandler Cox as the H-Back/Fullback and Johnson and Pettway in the backfield the Tigers have the pieces to pull this off as well in terms of the skill players.

Franklin showed the ability to throw the ball in his limited playing time against Texas A&M and much like 2013, throwing a few deep shots down the field combined with the downhill running game is the true run/play-action that Malzahn craves.

The problem comes at tight end where Jalen Harris is the only scholarship player on the roster at the position. While an offensive tackle gives you an option there, it also takes away the threat of the pass, something that showed up time and time again in 2015 for the Auburn offense. A former tight end in his one year of high school, Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. has the frame to actually play the spot and getting him as much experience as possible is another added benefit.

With Franklin’s speed and improving feel in running the zone read it could be another viable option on offense because the strength of this current offensive line is in the running game. Throw in the athletic abillity of Kameron Martin as a potential speed guy and it gives you a true triple threat.

No matter what happens it’s time for Auburn to find an offense, stick with it, and put the emphasis on playing to the strengths of those players. That’s what Malzahn did so well early in his career at Auburn, but in the last few seasons that has gone by the wayside. Maybe it’s time to dust off the old playbooks and get back to his roots as a coach when the options were limited and the offense had to be fit to the personnel.

There is plenty of personnel on this Auburn team. Now it’s time to use it.

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