When many football fans hear the term "spread offense," they may envision an offense that passes the ball the majority of the time. During a recent interview with Inside the Auburn Tigers Radio, Coach Tony Franklin provided a simplistic characterization of his spread offense.
According to Franklin, the term "spread" defines the ability to spread the football out to all of your skilled players. By doing so, the offense becomes more dynamic, difficult to defend and keeps the players motivated because they are consistently involved in the offense.
What a wonderful concept and approach to the game. In reality it's not a new concept and it's not like Franklin has reinvented the wheel in terms of offensive philosophy. Auburn's previous offensive coordinator, Al Borges also spoke of the concept of getting the ball in the hands of your playmakers.
Borges did a wonderful job of designing his offense around Auburn's running backs in 2004. It included a power running game shared by Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown highlighted by a solid vertical passing game directed by Jason Campbell.
Big Plays and Touchdowns...
From 1987-2007, there have been 10 seasons in which Auburn fielded at least five different players on one team with at least two plays of 30-yards or more.
1995: Six--Robert Baker (WR), Fred Beasley (RB), Stephen Davis (RB), Andy Fuller (TE), Tyrone Goodson (WR) and Eric Hines-Tucker (RB)
1997: Seven--Karsten Bailey (WR), Fred Beasley (RB), Tyrone Goodson (WR), Kevin McLeod (TE), Hicks Poor (WR), Clifton Robinson (WR) and Rusty Williams (RB)
2001: Seven--Ronnie Brown (RB), Carnell Williams (RB), Jason Campbell (QB), Tim Carter (WR), Marcel Willis (WR), Casinious Moore (RB) and Robert Johnson (TE)
2006: Ben Tate (RB), Brad Lester (RB), Carl Stewart (RB), Courtney Taylor (WR), Kenny Irons (RB) and Rod Smith (WR)
It's no wonder why the 2004 offense was the best in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn had four receivers, three running backs and one tight end providing the Tigers with big play potential. Last season, Auburn had only three offensive players with at least two big plays during the 2007 season. Ben Tate (RB), Robert Dunn (WR) and Rod Smith (WR) made the cut but surprisingly absent from the list were Brad Lester and Mario Fannin.
Junior running back Ben Tate is one of several running backs battling for touches.
From 1969-2007, there have been nine Auburn teams to field at least five players with at least two touchdown plays of 10 yards or more during a season.
1969: Connie Frederick, Mike Currier, Pat Sullivan, Terry Beasley and Mickey Zofko.
1979: James Brooks, Byron Franklin, Joe Cribbs, Mark Robbins, Charles Thomas and Charlie Trotman.
1988: Stacy Danley, James Joseph, Henry Love, Freddie Weygand and Alexander Wright.
1995: Andy Fuller, Fred Beasley, Eric Hines-Tucker, Karsten Bailey, Kevin McLeod and Stephen Davis.
1996: Robert Baker, Markeith Cooper, Dameyune Craig, Fred Beasley, Tyrone Goodson and Karsten Bailey.
2001: Chris Butler, Carnell Williams, Casinious Moore, Robert Johnson and Tim Carter.
2002: Ben Obomanu, Carnell Williams, Robert Johnson, Ronnie Brown and Tre Smith.
2004: Anthony Mix, Devin Aromashodu, Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor and Ronnie Brown.
Spreading the Wealth...
During the Chick-fil-a Bowl against Clemson, six different Auburn players gained at least 35 yards in total offense. This was actually a season-high for the 2007 Auburn Tigers.
In fact, in the prior 12 games under Borges, Auburn had only two games where at least five players had at least 35 yards in total offense. Franklin's offense at Troy (2007) produced at least five players with 35 yards or more in eight of 12 games.
Not only was Franklin's offense at Troy more productive than Auburn in terms of players with 35 yards or more, Franklin was able to get more overall production from the same Auburn players Borges worked with during 2007.
The 2008 offensive roster might not be as talented as the 2004 Auburn offense, but Franklin has already proven his ability to maximize the talent returning from 2007.
As already stated, Tate, Dunn and Smith were the only three Auburn players from 2007 with at least two big plays during the season. There is no doubt, players like Lester and Fannin will have big play potential in the spread offense not to mention the speed of a healthy Davis.
This also doesn't include receivers like Tim Hawthorne, Chris Slaughter and Montez Billings. With Tommy Trott and Gabe McKenzie trimming down in weight, Auburn will have the ability to be dynamic at all the skilled positions.