Darius Slayton (above) is a wide receiver for the Tigers.
During the past two seasons combined, Auburn's offense has produced 18 touchdown plays of at least 30 yards. The 2010 Auburn offense produced 27 such touchdown plays, followed by the 2013 Auburn offense that produced 19.
The big play has been lacking in the offense, which was one of the reasons why Coach Gus Malzahn made a change at the offensive coordinator position. Over the past 25 seasons plays of 30 yards or more have accounted for less than three percent of Auburn's offensive snaps, but nearly 25 percent of the total yardage gained.
Chip Lindsey was hired to revamp the pass offense, an area where the majority of big plays occur. Malzahn is no stranger to creating the big play as five of his Auburn offenses are in Auburn's top 11 during the past 50 years in generating plays of 30 yards or more. Malzahn and Lindsey are banking on the run-pass option plays making the Auburn offense more explosive in 2017.
“Some of the RPO stuff that we are doing right now is just really comfortable,” quarterback Jarrett Stidham said. “I felt really comfortable with it because at Baylor most of the offense was RPO. I think it's going to be good for us and add another element to our offense."
Here are Auburn’s top five teams in generating touchdown plays of 30 yards or more:
2010: 1 every 35.1 snaps
2013: 1 every 53.3 snaps
2009: 1 every 57.1 snaps
1979: 1 every 60.5 snaps
2005: 1 every 68.3 snaps
Over the past 50 years of Auburn football, the Tigers averaged a touchdown play of 30 yards or more every 100 snaps.
One of the keys to a successful offense is identifying your playmakers, which was a primary goal for Lindsey during the spring. “I'm excited about what we're doing and the direction our offense is headed," Lindsey said. "One of the things we wanted to do in the spring was identify who we are in 2017. Each year you build the offense around the guys you have that year.
“We're still learning our team and what we're getting really good at, but we have a better idea now of who can do what and what direction we want to head offensively."
Entering the 2017 season Lindsey will have 15 "skill" players at his disposal, rated as 4-stars or better by Scout.com. Of those players 11 have at least one season of experience under their belts, giving Lindsey plenty of talent and experience to field a very efficient offense.
Auburn's top five players the past 50 years in generating touchdown plays of 30 yards or more:
Bo Jackson 15
Sammie Coates 12
Alexander Wright 11
Terry Beasley 10
James Brooks 10
Byron Franklin 10
The combination of Kamryn Pettway, Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin accounted for 456 offensive touches, 2,630 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. The trio at the running back position accounted for more than one-third of Auburn's impact plays in 2016, including 12 plays of 30 yards or more.
Last season Darius Slayton, Eli Stove, Nate Craig-Myers and Kyle Davis were targeted 87 times. The quartet of freshman wide receivers hauled in 54 receptions for 834 yards. Eighteen of their 54 receptions were impact plays, and half of their impact plays were of 30 yards or more.
Combine Auburn's returning running backs and the four freshman wide receivers, and you have 52 impact plays, including 21 plays of 30 yards or more. The 2017 Auburn offense will return personnel that accounted for 71 percent of its impact plays last season and nearly 80 percent of its plays of 30 yards or more.
The 2016 Auburn offense ranked No. 8 among the last 30 Auburn offenses in generating plays of 30 yards or more every 28.3 snaps. During the last 25 years Auburn had won 87 percent of its games when the Tigers produced at least three plays of 30 yards or more during a game.
Until Auburn is a few games into the season one can only guess what its offensive identity will be under Lindsey within the perimeters of what Malzahn expects. Finding a cohesive bond between the two should allow the offense to mature and prosper.
"I brought Chip in for balance," said Malzahn. "We're going to be able to run the football, and we're going to be one of the best in the league year in and year out, but he's a quarterback guy. He's really good at developing quarterbacks."
Lindsey is a disciple of the Air-Raid offense and will blend some of his passing concepts with Malzahn's power running game. Auburn's playmakers at running back and receiver will be joined by quarterbacks Jarrett Stidham, Sean White, and Malik Willis. This depth at quarterback could be Auburn's strongest trio of players at that position since 1993 when Auburn had Stan White, Patrick Nix and Dameyune Craig on the roster.
The starting quarterback has yet to be named, but it appears Stidham could be the front-runner going into fall camp. His arm strength and accuracy could be the final piece of the puzzle to make the Auburn offense dynamic again.