Auburn, Ala.--It didn't take long for new Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin to give a detailed description of his interpretation of the spread offense that is sweeping the country. The architect of one of the most successful systems in the country at Troy, Franklin says his style of offense is designed to make plays using the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and yes even tight ends and do one thing all the time. His word to describe his offensive philosophy is attack.
"The biggest thing is that we want to try to get the ball to the people that deserve to have it in their hands," Franklin says. "At Troy this year we had 14 different receivers catch touchdown passes. Sometimes you have two or three great players and they might catch 10 or 12 apiece. There might be a couple of guys that run 10 or 12 apiece. We had a lot of good players, but nobody was spectacular or great that we had to feed the ball to all the time.
"Basically we spread the field," he adds. "We can use the same personnel in every formation imaginable without having to change personnel. We can also change personnel in and out. We're no-huddle all the time. We haven't been in a huddle in two years at Troy. Our players wouldn't know how to get in one if we wanted to. We practice fast and we play fast. We led the nation this year with the number of snaps from center at about 81 ½ per game. It's a huge advantage as far as being able to control the tempo of the ball game.
"I believe when you're on offense you should control the tempo. The defense should never control anything. They should be defending and you should be attacking. We're constantly attacking and trying to attack every area of the field. Every week is different and every team is different. You take the strengths that somebody has and you build from those strengths. That's what we'll do at Auburn. We'll look at the strengths and find out what people are really good at and we'll build from there. We'll recruit for the other things that we're not very good at."
One question that many Auburn fans have had about possibly running the spread offense is what happens to the stockpile of running backs and tight ends on the Auburn campus. While he didn't incorporate them at Troy for the most part, Franklin says that his days at Kentucky throwing the ball to James Whalen and Missouri's current offense show that you can use the tight ends in the spread and turn them into weapons for the offense.
"That's a great problem," Franklin says. "Having a great tight end at Kentucky was something we were able to use because we were able to recruit tight ends. I'm hopeful they do and I have heard they do. I'm looking forward to that. We used the tight end at Troy some. We had a walk-on we basically had to make into a tight end and he did an adequate job and worked hard for us.
"You can do all kinds of stuff," he adds. "Missouri has used the spread and used 6-5 tight ends to play out in the slot. We'll do that. We'll have them in tight. They'll be in the slot. They'll be in the backfield. They'll be all over the place. I coached running backs at Kentucky and for those three seasons those two running backs had more yards from scrimmage than any running back combination in the SEC, in rushing and receiving combined."
Perhaps the biggest question mark is on the ground. Despite the fact that they lined up in the shotgun for the majority of the season, Troy still managed to rush for over 180 yards on the ground. Running the football is an important part of the success of any offense and Franklin says that will be the case with his offense at Auburn as well. It starts with the backs, but he notes if you can add a mobile quarterback it makes for an explosive mixture for the defense to handle.
"If you look at what we did at Kentucky to what I'm doing now there are some similarities," Franklin says. "We didn't run the ball a tremendous amount at Kentucky. There were times when we did and there were times when we would be in the offset I. I remember against Georgia in 1998 we were running the clock at the end and lining up and pounding the ball. There were times we did that, but there wasn't a commitment to it. What we've done is that. We use some of the base stuff they did and still throw a lot of the screens to the wide receivers, but we also have tried to incorporate the zone-option scheme similar to what West Virginia does.
"We've always believed that if you could do both then it's a pretty dynamic thing. We accomplished that by being able to do some of that stuff this year. It made us so much better and so much more difficult to defend. When the quarterback can run the football it makes a huge difference from the simple fact that it gives you an extra guy all the time, an extra blocker. It makes your offense much more dynamic. I have become a convert the last season and a half."