StatTiger: Veteran Auburn Offense Has Promise

Auburn is poised to have a solid offensive year in Al Borges' third as offensive coordinator for the Tigers.

With preseason practice underway, most of the attention from the media has been focused on the Auburn offense and rightfully so. Except for 1970 and 1995, Auburn has rarely been one of the top offensive units in college football in terms of yards gained and points scored.

In fact, over the past 10 seasons, only five Southeastern Conference teams have finished in the nation's Top 10 in scoring offense and total offense. The Florida Gators appeared in the Top 10 scoring category in 1996, 1997, 2000 and 2001. The Kentucky Wildcats made one appearance in 1998. Florida and Kentucky made two appearances in the Top 10 total offense category and Tennessee was fourth in total offense in 1997.

The 1970 and 1995 Auburn Tigers are considered the most prolific offensive units in school history. Both finished among the Top 10 of the nation's total offensive leaders. The 1970 Auburn Tigers averaged 485 yards per game and the 1995 offense averaged 461. Both averaged over 35 points per game and very few Auburn teams have matched their scoring output.

Over the past two years, Auburn has been the top offensive unit in the Southeastern Conference under the guidance of Coach Al Borges. With an abundance of experience returning on offense in 2006, Borges should be able to build on the success of the last two seasons. This will also mark the first time since his tenure at UCLA Borges will work with a returning starting quarterback in Brandon Cox.

Experience In Numbers

Of the projected starters for the 2006 season, seven are seniors and the remaining four are juniors. Five of the 11 starters have appeared in 31 or more ball games as an Auburn Tiger. Seven of the starting eleven has appeared in at least 22 ball games.

Courtney Taylor (Sr) WR--37 games

Ben Grubbs (Sr) LG--37 games

Cole Bennett (Sr) TE--36 games

Jonathan Palmer (Sr) RT--33 games

Tim Duckworth (Sr) RG--31 games

King Dunlap (Jr) LT--24 games

Carl Stewart (Jr) FB--22 games

Brandon Cox (Jr) QB--18 games

Joe Cope (Sr)--14 games

Kenny Irons (Sr) RB--12 games

Prechae Rodriguez (Jr) WR--11 games

Of the projected 26 players from the two-deep offensive depth chart, the offensive line has the most playing experience averaging 17.6 games per lineman. The running backs are second with 16.2 games. This player rotation includes the slot-wide receiver and the F-back positions.

Though they are not starters, Tre Smith (41), Leon Hart (24) and Lee Guess (19) will provide experienced depth on offense. Smith has already appeared in 41 games and when healthy, has established himself as a dangerous weapon. Guess and Robert Dunn are currently battling for the third wide receiver position and both should see plenty of action in 2006.

Talent Level

Brandon Cox, Kenny Irons and Taylor have already been recognized as one of the top three players at their respective positions within the conference. Based on the voting from the SEC Media Days, Duckworth, Grubbs and Cope are three of the top 15 linemen in the Southeastern Conference and Bennett was voted as the third best tight end in the conference. Factor in the voting from the coaches among the Southeastern Conference, Palmer makes the eighth Auburn player highly recognized as one of the top players in the conference at his position.

Senior Ben Grubbs is an All-SEC candidate at guard.

Having eight offensive players highly regarded is enough to be excited about, but there are hidden gems waiting to make a major impact this upcoming season. Prechae Rodriguez has only 11 games under his belt, but this doesn't include the 12 games he started as a JUCO. He's a big target who will compliment Taylor on the other side of the field. Dunn saw action in eight games last season and this should pay off in 2006 as he competes for the slot-receiver position and punt return duty.

Tommy Trott might have the best opportunity to shine as a non-starter. He is No. 2 on the tight end depth chart and Borges has already experimented with Trott at the slot-receiver position. His combination of size, speed and great hands will make him one of the key offensive players over the next four years.

Brad Lester is bigger this season, closing in on 200 pounds and his speed should result in big plays for the Auburn Tigers. Lester averaged 6.5 yards per carry, 17.3 yards per reception and he also scored on a 93-yard kickoff return. With the season Kenny Irons had last year, some have forgotten Lester was the starter going into the Arkansas game until he was injured. If he can stay healthy, there won't be any dropoff when Lester subs for Kenny Irons in 2006.

The Tre Smith from 2002 is back and he's more experienced and in the best shape of his career. With his ability to cut and change directions, Borges will move Smith around to obtain the most of his physical attributes.

Most of the college football publications had Auburn's recent recruiting class ranked among the Top 15 in the country. With the loss of three starting receivers from 2005, Tim Hawthorne and Ben Tate and Mario Fannin have the best opportunity to compete as true freshmen. Hawthorne arrived at Auburn bigger and more athletic than several receivers already on campus for a couple years. Tate is a very talented runner who has both size and speed.

Previous Offensive Success

Only 11 Auburn teams have fielded an offense that averaged over 400 yards per game. Those include:

1970: 485.0
1995: 460.6
1988: 434.2
1969: 422.5
2004: 420.7
1993: 420.0
1985: 417.6
1986: 416.7
1994: 411.5
1984: 410.0
2005: 409.8

In just two seasons both offensive units under Borges have made the Tp 11 list. Here are the Top 10 scoring offenses in school history:

1995: 38.5
1969: 36.3
1970: 35.5
1986: 34.5
1996: 33.3
1994: 32.5
2005: 32.2
1993: 32.1
2004: 32.1
1971: 31.3

Once again, the 2004 and 2005 offensive units under Borges are two of the best in school history. In terms of touchdown frequency, the 2004 team was fifth best since 1967, scoring every 16.5 plays and the 2005 squad was ninth best, averaging a touchdown every 17.4 plays. The 1995 offense was No. 1 scoring a touchdown every 14.6 plays.

Final Word

A lot can happen between now and opening day, but the 2006 offense is destined to make its mark in the offensive record books. Like any other program, injuries can change the outlook and destiny of the Auburn Tigers but Auburn appears to be loaded on offense in 2006. With the experience and talent level Coach Borges has to work with in 2006 this offensive unit has a chance to be one of the best in school history. Yes, there are questions to be answered with the loss at wide receiver but this doesn't include a deficit in terms of talent, only in experience.

It all starts up front and the Auburn offensive line could be one of the best in the conference. You would have to look back to the Pat Dye teams of the late 80's to compare the depth and talent level at the tight end and running back positions currently at Auburn.

Al Borges is in charge of the Auburn offense.

Entering his junior season, Cox is the second highest rated Auburn quarterback and there is no valid reason to believe his performance will drop off this year. After following Auburn football since the late 70's and statistically charting Auburn football since 1987, I cannot recall an Auburn offensive unit that possessed more combined experience, talent and depth than the 2006 squad.

Reality states it's all potential and great "eye" candy on paper, but we'll all know soon enough come September 2nd and the final verdict won't be cast until the last game is played. The foundation is in place for a good year on offense. The offensive line, quarterback, running back and tight end positions are solidified for Borges to groom his young receiving corps. His passing game will likely be centered around the running backs and tight ends early on, but the wide receivers will be needed to stretch the field down the road.

While at UCLA, Borges assembled his best offensive unit in his third year as the Bruins' offensive coordinator. The Bruins averaged 487 yards and 40 points per game in 1998. Year number three could be the charm for Auburn as well.


2006 Inside the Auburn Tigers Auburn Football Guide

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