New Offensive Coordinator Looking For Improvement

Bobby Petrino says he wants to see improvementin several areas when the football Tigers return to the practice field.

Auburn, Ala.-With several days to study video of the first football scrimmage and prior to that his first five practices as an Auburn coach, offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino has a plan of action for his Tigers when practices resume on Wednesday.

Bobby Petrino

"We need to make some big plays," Petrino says. "That is the one thing that I think we have not had enough of in practice. In the scrimmage the other day, a lot of that was caused by one guy or maybe two guys not getting their jobs done.

"We probably had seven or eight plays, as you watched the video, that were real close to becoming big plays or going the distance, but maybe the backside block didn't happen or a receiver didn't get a block downfield. We are close to making some big plays, but we aren't there yet. We need to improve on that. We need to continue to work on our technique.

The tailbacks, including Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, have been a highlight of spring practice.

"Once you get to the scrimmage, emotion starts going a little bit and guys forget to use their technique at times. That is some of our youngness--particularly the young offensive linemen, the two guards (David Walker and Nate French), who haven't taken a lot of reps. So once you say scrimmage and move the coaches off the field it was all new to them."

The Tigers have 15 spring practice opportunities so they are 40 percent finished with those workouts that will end on April 6th with the annual intrasquad A-Day contest at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

‘"We need to work on our poise," Petrino tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "The quarterbacks need to execute the offense better--really understand their progressions and where to put the ball. I am not sure we are going to have a lot of big plays down the field until we get the freshmen in here as far as throwing the ball to the outside receivers, but those guys should do a little better job against press (press man-to-man pass coverage) than we did. Those are the areas we need to improve on."

On the positive side of the ledger, Petrino liked what he saw from tight ends Lorenzo Diamond, Robert Johnson and Cooper Wallace. The trio combined for 13 catches in the Saturday scrimmage.

"I am happy with our tight ends as far as getting production out of them," Petrino says. "I don't know if they still realize how good they can be, but they are playing hard and it seems like they have grasped the idea of what we want them to do in the passing game so they are doing a good job there. Of course, our running backs will be our strength. You couldn't be more happy with the guys we have got in the backfield we have back there running the football.

"I think we just need to put it all together," the former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator says. "The funny thing about offense is that 10 guys can do their job and one guy doesn't and you have a negative play. I think when they all understand they have to count on each other every play and execute every single play, we will get better."

Although the offense didn't hit any long plays in the first scrimmage, there was not a single turnover in the session, which is highly unusual for the first major scrimmage of the spring. Petrino says that was a highlight of the day for the offense.

"We wanted to go into the scrimmage and, number one, take care of the football," Petrino says. "Number two, we try to emphasize that protecting the quarterback is the job of all 11 players on the field. We didn't do that well enough. We had some sacks and some were maybe (problems) up front. A couple of them were the quarterback and the receiver not getting open quickly enough. We did do a good job of taking care of the football."

Center Ben Nowland (55)

Tiger Ticket Extra: The new offensive coordinator says based on the first scrimmage, there will be a real battle for the starting job at center with Ben Nowland trying to hold off a stiff challenge from sophomore Danny Lindsey. "That is a good competition," says Petrino, who notes that it is possible one could also get some work at guard. "If you had to do it (move one to guard) you could, but right now they are competing and making each other better so that is good."...Discussing his philosophy for the 2002 Auburn offense, Petrino says, "I think we are more of a pro set offense. We won't really know until we get everybody here and really utilize our ability. We have tried to mix it up between the two-back running game and passing game and the two tight end, two receivers. I think that will be a strength of ours. Then, hopefully, we will be able to utilize the three wides. I like to be multiple. If we can ever get the idea where we are doing the same plays out of multiple sets, mixing it up, maybe put a little more pressure on the defense but yet our assignments and our progression reads for the quarterback don't change, that is what you would really like to do."

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