Offense Not Satisfied With Performance

Coach Hugh Nall talks about Auburn's offensive performance and some of the changes made going into the Tennessee game.

Auburn, Ala.—As good as Auburn's offense was Saturday night against Tennessee in a 28-21 victory over the seventh-ranked Volunteers, the talk Sunday following practice was about the missed opportunities that could have put the game away much earlier. That was something that Coach Hugh Nall said the team worked on during a short, but productive Sunday practice on the Plains.

"We were close to having a lot more big plays," Nall said. "So we're still stressing fundamentals and technique and that's what we spent the afternoon doing today. That's why I enjoy Sunday afternoons because you can focus on some mistakes and the little things, a step or pass set or hand placement or hat placement or whatever it might be, and try to get those corrected. There were a lot of opportunities for us yesterday to have done some things better. It wasn't perfect so we'll keep trying to get it that way."

One of the biggest changes for the Auburn team in the last three games has been the play of the offensive front and in particular tackle Mark Pera. Against Georgia Tech earlier in the season Pera was beaten several times as quarterback Jason Campbell was sacked repeatedly in the loss. Saturday night Pera was at his best, earning co-offensive player of the week honors with Canrell Williams from the coaching staff for his performance. Nall said that Pera's performance was easily the best he has seen out of the senior since he's been at Auburn.

Pera blocks Tennessee defensive end Jason Hall during Saturday night's victory.

Another change is a subtle one that has been a major reason why the Tigers have moved the ball with ease each of the last three games. After looking at film, along with suggestions from consultant Zeke Bratkowski, the Tigers made some adjustments in formations that have kept the opposition from zoning in on certain plays. That unknown has given the offense the upper hand at the line of scrimmage and allowed Campbell to check the team into better plays more often.

"Really we didn't do anything different," Nall said of the plays ran against Tennessee. "Everything you saw yesterday, in probably the whole scheme of things there might have been a few new plays and I think those were pass routes. There were no new running plays. The biggest thing we're trying to do is keep is simple yet change up our formation and personnel as much as we can."

The move that might have made the most impact on the team was using fullback Brandon Johnson at tight end in many of the one-back sets. A player described by his coaching staff as the heart and soul of the offense, Johnson wasn't able to be on the field a great deal with Auburn's formation changes. For the Tennessee game the coaching staff moved him to tight end to learn some of the plays from there and act as a lead blocker from the position.

"That was the first time that we've done that," Nall said. "We got him in the game more and we got into different formations with him in the game. Therefore it gave us a larger play selection to be able to run from a different formation than what you might be able to do out of the I formation. Moving him on the line of scrimmage gives you a whole different play selection."

On the injury front cornerback Carlos Rogers did not practice on Sunday after having minor surgery to place three pins in a thumb he broke early in Saturday's win over Tennessee. He said that he was planning to play Saturday against Arkansas and should return to practice in the middle of the week. Offensive tackle Marcus McNeill also did not practice on a day when the team just mainly worked on fundamentals and technique. McNeill said that his back was sore following last night's game, but he was happy to be able to play the entire game. He should return to practice on Tuesday when the Tigers begin game plan work for Arkansas.

Running back Ronnie Brown's prognosis is listed as questionable right now and Coach Eddie Gran said they would have a better idea of his outlook on Tuesday. Suffering from some slight swelling in his hamstring, he'll be evaluated later in the week before the coaching staff decides on his availability this weekend. Defensive end Jay Ratliff has shown a lot of improvement the last week and should return to practice this week to prepare for Arkansas.

Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Central and can be seen regionally on Jefferson Pilot television.


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