Auburn's new offensive coordinator, he has been on the job for less than two weeks, but Coach Tommy Tuberville said that despite some changes this offense will still revolve around running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown along with quarterback Jason Campbell.
"We're bringing a new offensive coordinator in with a lot of new ideas, but we'll start with the running game," Tuberville said. "Let there be no doubt about that. We're going to run the football and we're going to run it better than we did the last year and the year before.
"We have been a good running team. The problem that we've had is that we haven't been able to establish a passing attack with any consistency to make people balance up against the running game where the running game can be a lot better.
"Next year I'm sure we'll see a lot of the same things we saw this year, eight and nine man fronts, bringing a new offensive coordinator in that's what we're looking to adjust to. We have to make adjustments in formations and be able to make the right calls and get the ball downfield to be able to loosen it up so Carnell and Ronnie can have some room to run."
To get the ball thrown deep successfullly, several things have to work better for the Tigers in 2004 than they did last season. One of those is the play of quarterback Jason Campbell. While he was solid in the passing game, the offense didn't get the ball down the field through the air as much as Tuberville would have liked. He said that he's anxious to see what Campbell can do despite having his fourth quarterback coach in four seasons.
"I'm excited about Jason Campbell's fifth season," Tuberville said. "His dad was a coach so he gets a lot of coaching. He's a young man that has improved each year. A lot of people are always pointing at Jason as the problem or saying he didn't have a good game and that's why we didn't win. It does start with the quarterback, but he has made strides over the last few years.
"It has been unfortunate for him that we've changed him around some, but really there hasn't been as much change as people would think. It's just the thought process of how we call plays through offensive coordinators rather than the basics of an offense. I'm looking forward to Jason having a good spring."
Carnell Williams is looking to add to his already impressive resume as a senior.
The quarterback isn't the only one responsible for a less-than-stellar passing game and for Auburn that means the wide receivers have to improve dramatically over last season. With a problem dropping passes and getting off the line of scrimmage, they often left Campbell helpless at the position. Tuberville said he's looking for definite improvement from a group of veterans in Anthony Mix, Silas Daniels, Ben Obomanu, Devin Aromashodu and Courtney Taylor.
"The area I want to see a lot of improvement in is receiver," Tuberville said. "Last year we had a tough time getting off jams and presses from very aggressive defenses. I thought we got better, but for us to be a complete offense we have to make big plays from the receiver position and we did at times.
"At times we were inconsistent as well. I think it's time that some of these younger guys that were freshmen and sophomores last year stepped up and this spring will be a good time for them to do that."
Courtney Taylor hopes to build on to a solid freshman season in 2003.
One of the more interesting battles of the spring will be at quarterback where several candidates will by vying to win the number two job behind Campbell and the right to push him for the starting job next fall. Tuberville said that despite his baseball duties, sophomore Josh Sullivan will be in the mix along with two others this spring. Sophomore Wesley Hill will still work some at quarterback, but is being groomed as the holder to replace Justin Fetsko.
"We just have to find a guy that can push Jason and give us an opportunity to have somebody to get ready for 2005," Tuberville said. "Josh Sullivan, Kelcy Luke and Brandon Cox are three guys that are going to get a lot of looks. We're going to go after it from day one and in a short period of time I'm going to have a number two guy. Whoever steps up first will probably get more reps. You can't work four quarterbacks. You can a little bit in spring practice, but when it gets to two-a-days you can't do it. After that first scrimmage we'll have a number two quarterback and he'll be the guy to beat out."
Up front the Tigers will do things a little bit differently in trying to replace departed seniors Monreko Crittenden and Mark Pera. No longer is the line going to flop to strong and weak sides, instead they'll remain as left and right. The second change is at several positions, where Troy Reddick moves outside to tackle and Jeremy Ingle moves to the starting center spot.
Danny Lindsey is the veteran of the offensive line this season.
"It gives us the opportunity to move Danny Lindsey back from center to guard, where he played and started a lot of games for us at Auburn and played well," Tuberville said. "I think that move is going to help both of them. Danny will move to right guard."
Rounding out the offense is the fullback spot where Brandon Johnson is gone after being a fixture for the Tigers for the better part of three seasons. Tuberville said Jake Slaughter should fill in nicely for Johnson after getting some quality experience last season. Despite the reputation of the West Coast Offense, Tuberville said Auburn's version of the "Gulf Coast Offense" will still be about running the ball when all is said and done.
"We'll still be a lot of fullback team, two backs," Tuberville said. "You don't see a lot of that much anymore, but with the two backs we have we felt like we needed to stay with the fullback offense 30 or 40 percent of the time. There's going to be a lot of times when Ronnie and Carnell will be on the field at the same time and it will look like a two-back offense, but we'll use them in different situations."
Auburn opens spring practice Sunday afternoon with a workout in shorts on the football complex fields. The first scrimmage is scheduled for Saturday March 6 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. All spring practices are open to the public.