Tigers Making Strides With The Passing Game

Auburn, Ala--Auburn's first year offensive coordinator Al Borges was given the task of improving the passing game and overall offensive production.

Through four games, the Tigers are averaging 434.8 yards per contest as they head to Knoxville for an SEC showdown on Saturday evening vs. the Tennessee Volunteers. Last year the Tigers averaged 376.2 yards per contest.

Auburn's passing numbers are up, too, from 192 yards per game in 2003 to 224.2 so far this season. The Auburn running game has also worked well so far, racking up nearly 211 yards per outing.

"I feel like the passing game is developing in a lot of ways because of different things we do and different aspects that we have involved in our passing game," Campbell says. "Our screens are a lot better this year than they have been in the past. I think that goes a long way as far as helping us in the passing game because they have to read screens just as well as the dropback passes.

"If you throw a screen, it's just the same as you're dropping back passing and they don't know if the screen's coming," he adds. "I think that has a lot to do with taking off the pressure of the receivers and getting them open."

So far in 2004, Auburn opponents have been keying on star tailback Carnell Williams. Although Williams has gained 395 through four games, he's averaging only 4.8 yards per carry, down from his previous three seasons' average of 5.3 yards per carry.

"I've noticed every time he gets the ball there's about four or five guys trying to tackle him," Campbell says. "They're trying to swarm to him. Right now it's up to all of the other guys like myself, the receivers and Ronnie Brown to win the games because they're going to clamp down on Carnell. We can take pressure off him by making plays and that will open him up.

"Watching film, you see as many guys coming at him trying to tackle him and he's still breaking two or three tackles to get yards," the senior quarterback adds. "That just shows how tough he is and how hard it is to tackle him.

"The one thing that's going to help him out, as long as we continue to move the ball around to different places, is to not let people key on when they think he's going to get the ball. With Ronnie Brown coming back with the season he's having, it's going to be tough for people to continue keying on him like that."

Jason Campbell is one of four players in Auburn football history to pass for more than 5,000 yards. He has 5,212 going into the Tennessee game.

Brown is off to a solid start in 2004, running for 269 yards in the first three games at 8.7 yards per carry. He rushed for 147 yards on 15 carries at Mississippi State, but sat out last Saturday's game against The Citadel with a tweaked hamstring.

Campbell says the success of Williams and Brown has helped open aspects of the passing game. "As far as play action, it does," Campbell says. "With (Williams) and Ronnie Brown on the field at the same time, it takes pressure off (Williams) because they don't know if 23 is going to get it or 24 is going to get it. I think with Ronnie B being back and healthy, it's going to take pressure off him this week."

Saturday against The Citadel, Campbell was playing with a injured toe suffered in the third quarter against LSU, but still played a nearly error-free game completing 11-14 passes for 194 yards. One of his incompletions was on a drop and the other two were under pressure.

"I think you need games like that," Campbell says. "Ronnie Brown had to sit out this past week, and if we had to play another big team like Tennessee the week after we play LSU, then it would be doubtful for him to play because of his injury. Games like The Citadel are for us to get people back healthy, plus to settle down and get ready for our next big game."

Campbell says he plans on being 100 percent physically ready by the time the Tigers travel to Tennessee. "My toe is going to be all right," he says. "It's just sprained. (Last Saturday) I couldn't move full speed at all in the game. I was just going through the game trying not to put a whole lot of pressure on it. I'm pretty sure by the time (Tennessee) comes I'll be full strength."

He also notes that he and his teammates will need to be focused as they play in front of more than 100,000 fans in Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.

"Any time you go to another opponent's den and play it's very tough," Campbell says. "You want to take as many fans out of the game as you possibly can because once they're in the game, they keep their team's momentum and keep them energized. We need to stay focused on what we have to do.

"I think the key to us being successful is communication, just having everyone pay attention in the huddle and the knowing the different tasks," he adds. "I think the communication is going to be the key as far as us not doing anything to get stupid penalties."


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