Al Borges Discusses Auburn's Offense

Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges discusses the roles his skill players and possibilites with the 2006 offense.

Auburn, Ala.--With more and more of the offense being installed as well as having a 104-play scrimmage on Friday, position battles and personnel decisions at the offensive skill positions are beginning to take shape.

Following an impressive scrimmage performance, according to offensive coordinator Al Borges, walk-on receiver Rodgeriqus Smith changed positions from Z to X.

"If we played tomorrow he'd be the starting X receiver," Borges says of the redshirt sophomore wideout. "He was today (Saturday). Courtney (Taylor) would be the Z. I told the players from day one--there is no seniority system here. Everything is based on your performance, and if you don't perform in practice we can only assume that you're not going to perform in the game.

"We don't go for the gamer mentality," Borges explains. "If you perform in practice you gain the trust of your teammates and coaches. That's what Rod has done. Rod has earned that position until somebody plays better than him."

Smith has gotten the job done quietly over the last two-plus years on the Auburn football team. He's not a flashy player, but he has enough speed and strength to get open almost always comes up with the football when thrown to, even when covered.

"He's gained my trust," Borges notes. "When he first came here I thought he was a nice walk-on player. Whether he would ever contribute or not, I still had my doubts. He went through a spring football and Coach Knox does such a great job of training those guys--getting off a bump and run coverage and making plays.

"Now he's been here since I've been here," he adds. "I remember the day we tried him out. He knows what to do now and he's a heck of an athlete. He can run and catch the ball and (Friday) he put on a show. Like anybody else, he's going to have to keep pushing."

Rodgeriqus Smith's play has been a highlight of preseason drills.

Known as Rod or Dreek to his teammates, he is now ahead of Prechae Rodriguez and Tim Hawthorne at the X. At the Z, in order, are Courtney Taylor, Montez Billings, James Swinton and Terrell Zachery. As of now at the slot, the W position, senior Lee Guess is running number one with Robert Dunn on his heels. Anthony Campbell is also working at the position.

According to Borges, Hawthorne will most likely play as a true freshman while Zachery's status is much more questionable at the moment.

"Tim's in the depth chart," Borges notes. "I can't see Tim not playing. He's the third X pushing the second X. Tim is going to be a great player. He's like the rest of them and he's still learning what to do. He's going to end up as a great player. (Zachery) plays Z and we've got a lot of Z's. I don't know. To say that he's going to play, I don't know. We'll see. Both of those kids are great players. They're not misses, they're great players."

Perhaps one of the most important positions in Borges' offense is the do-it-all F-back. Ronnie Brown mastered it on his way to becoming the number two overall pick in the draft following the 2004 season. Last year the position wasn't used as much, but Borges says he may go back to it more with Carl Stewart playing his best football.

"Carl Stewart has got to be a factor for us in some way," he says of the 6-2, 224-pound back. "We're going to use him in a lot of capacities. He had another good practice (Saturday). Carl's been as solid as any of our backs--running the ball, blocking, he's bigger, he's stronger, he's faster and he's always been smart. He's a guy in some way, shape or form we've got to manufacture ways to get him the ball and get him in the game. He's a pretty good blocker now."

With the emergence of Stewart, Borges will be able to run more of his bunch sets and variations that were so successful in 2004.

"The first year it was all Ronnie and last year we used Mix (Anthony Mix) more," he says. "We didn't use the F position as much as we did the year before. This year we're leaning toward going back to it a little more because he (Stewart) is performing."

Also possibilities in the hybrid runner/blocker/receiver role are two players with different styles than Stewart in Tre Smith and Brad Lester, as well as bruiser Ben Tate.

"It's just how you use them," Borges says. "Carl is the more physical player so what you do with the F with Carl in the game might be a little different than what you do with Tre or Brad Lester. Ben Tate is more like Ronnie. We could use him in a lot of different ways because he's thick, he's tough and he can block.

"Tre Smith has done well," Borges adds. "He's playing the F position. Right now, that's as good of a personnel (group) as we have right now is the two-tailback offense."

Al Borges is beginning his third season as Auburn's offensive coordinator.

Borges says it is too early to give an answer about whether or not Tate will definitely play this fall as a freshman.

At the true fullback position, which was run by Jake Slaughter last year, Borges says that Andrew Turman has become more involved.

"Turman, another walk-on, has played very consistently for us," Borges notes. "He has done a nice job and there is still a place for him on our team. We've got to decide as we get into game planning to where that place is. Ten or 11 snaps a game, maybe more, but who knows? He has done a nice job and I'm proud of him."

Two other walk-on fullbacks, Danny Perry and Stephen Gowland, are also working at the fullback spot.

Not to be forgotten at tailback, of course, is All-SEC runner Kenny Irons. Brad Lester is the likely candidate as the next guy at tailback. True freshman tailback Mario Fannin sat out practice earlier in August because of bruised tailbone and has missed recent practices with a hip pointer. He has a ton of talent, but the missed practice time has hurt his chances of playing this year.

Borges says he is pleased with his tight ends in Cole Bennett, Tommy Trott and Gabe McKenzie. Bennett is the every down player, Trott is the receiving threat at the position and McKenzie, a strong blocker, is getting better at becoming an all-around tight end. Trott, who has the talent to be a weapon in the passing game, had a good scrimmage on Friday according to Borges. True freshman Michael Goggans has gotten a lot of reps this August, but is playing behind three other talented players.


2006 Inside the Auburn Tigers Auburn Football Guide

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