It never fails. At some time during the broadcast of any football game, the topic of line play will enter into the picture. We often hear expressions such as, "the game was won in the trenches" or "it all starts up front." Though these are football clichés often reiterated, there is truth to these statements.
It doesn't require a PHD in football to realize the Florida Gators dominated Ohio State up front during the BCS National Championship game. So often in the game of football, the skilled players garner all the attention and the offensive linemen are singled out only when they make a mistake.
Despite compiling an 11-2 record this season, it was obvious Auburn had issues on the offensive line. Coach Hugh Nall and the line tend to be a frequent topic on Auburn message boards. Though the offensive line struggled this past season, Auburn's offensive production during his tenure would indicate Auburn's offensive line play has been one of the top amongst other Southeastern Conference teams.
Over the past six seasons (2001-2006) Auburn has averaged 177.9 yards rushing per game, placing them at second in the league. Arkansas is No.1 with 213.6 yards over the past six seasons.
Arkansas (213.6), Auburn (177.9), LSU (174.5), Alabama (173.8), South Carolina (153.1), Georgia (146.4), Florida (145.1), Vanderbilt (144.8), Tennessee (144.5), Mississippi State (125.7), Ole Miss (123.8) and Kentucky (119.2)
The average rushing yards per game can be misleading because of the various offensive schemes within the conference. Perhaps a better gauge of the running game would be the average per carry. Once again, Auburn is second in the league over the past six years.
Arkansas (4.86), Auburn (4.383), LSU (4.831), Alabama (4.25), Florida (4.20), South Carolina (4.13), Vanderbilt (3.98), Tennessee (3.96), Georgia (3.92), Mississippi State (3.66), Kentucky (3.62) and Ole Miss (3.49)
Coach Nall loses four of his five starters to gradution, including Tim Duckworth, left.
Two of the key numbers involved in the make up of the NCAA pass rating is completion percentage and average yards per pass attempt. In terms of completion percentage, Auburn is second in the conference over the past six seasons.
Florida (61.2%), Auburn (61.0%), LSU (59.0%), Tennessee (58.9%), Alabama (57.5%), Kentucky (57.1%), Ole Miss (56.8%), Georgia (56.8%), South Carolina (56.7%), Vanderbilt (55.5%), Arkansas (52.6%) and Mississippi State (50.5%)
Though Auburn has never possessed a wide open offense, the Tigers' passing game has been very efficient over the past six seasons. Auburn leads the Southeastern Conference in yards per pass attempt from 2001-2006.
Auburn (8.14), LSU (7.98), Florida (7.93), Georgia (7.82), Tennessee (7.46), South Carolina (7.37), Alabama (7.36), Vanderbilt (6.93), Ole Miss (6.87), Arkansas (6.87), Kentucky (6.67) and Mississippi State (5.97)
Over the past six seasons Auburn has averaged 379.1 yards per game, placing them at fourth in the conference.
Florida (417.7), LSU (400.8), Georgia (382.7), Auburn (379.1), Arkansas (375.1), Tennessee (371.7), Alabama (363.5), Vanderbilt (352.8), South Carolina (352.6), Ole Miss (351.6), Kentucky (335.5) and Mississippi State (311.4)
In terms of yards per offensive play, Auburn moves just ahead of the Georgia into third place with 5.80 yards per play.
Florida (6.06), LSU (5.88), Auburn (5.80), Georgia (5.67), Arkansas (5.56), Tennessee (5.55), South Carolina (5.49), Alabama (5.45), Vanderbilt (5.31), Kentucky (5.13), Ole Miss (5.12) and Mississippi State (4.76)
Over the past six seasons the Florida Gators have scored an offensive touchdown more frequently than any other conference team with one touchdown every 18.3 plays. Auburn is second on the list with one touchdown every 19.3 plays.
Florida (18.3), Auburn (19.3), LSU (19.3), Arkansas (20.0), Kentucky (22.0), Tennessee (22.0), Georgia (22.4), South Carolina (23.1), Ole Miss (24.5), Vanderbilt (24.6), Alabama (24.9) and Mississippi State (32.9)
One of the most glaring weaknesses of the 2006 Auburn Tigers' offense was their inability to protect the quarterback. Auburn quarterbacks were sacked 35 times, which was one sack every eight pass attempt. Prior to the 2006 season Auburn allowed an average of 21 sacks per season over the previous three seasons. During the last four seasons the Arkansas Razorbacks have allowed the fewest number of sacks per pass attempt with one every 20.9 pass attempt.
Arkansas (20.9), Tennessee (18.2), South Carolina (16.2), Vanderbilt (15.4), Florida (15.4), Georgia (14.6), Ole Miss (14.5), LSU (14.47), Auburn (12.5), Alabama (12.1), Kentucky (11.9) and Mississippi State (10.9)
Over the past four seasons Auburn is ninth in the conference in terms of protecting the quarterback. Take out the 2006 season and Auburn has allowed a sack every 14.1 pass attempt from 1999-2005 and one every 14.9 pass attempt from 2002-2005. The 35 sacks allowed in 2006 skewed Auburn's average but even the 14.9 average would only bump Auburn into sixth place within the conference.
In the eight seasons prior to Coach Tuberville's arrival at Auburn (1991-1998), the Tigers allowed a sack every 15.09 pass attempt. Under Tuberville Auburn has allowed a sack every 13.03 pass attempt. This is an area in dire need of improvement based on the 2006 numbers but something not unobtainable under Nall. Over the past 20 seasons, Auburn has allowed a sack every 14.3 pass attempt. The 2000 (19.7), 2004 (17.1), 2005 (16.1) and 2002 (14.9) teams finished close to the 14.3 average during Nall's tenure at Auburn.