Q&A With Tony Franklin

Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin has some frank comments on the Tiger offense.

Tony Franklin had these comments in an interview with Mark Murphy and Jason Caldwell on Inside the Auburn Tigers Radio.

It's been a couple of days since A-Day now. What can you take from it?
"I was excited by some things that we did. I thought that our offensive line played the best that they've played so far. The protection was really good throughout the day. Our run blocking was pretty good throughout the day as well and I thought their pass sets were more consistent and they were at the same depth. It was pleasant to see those things happen. I thought the receivers started to pick up and make some plays. I was real pleased with (James) Swinton. I thought that he's really had a good spring. I've been pleasantly surprised at some of the things that he's done this spring. It was nice to have Robert Dunn back out there because he's made plays every time that he's been out at practice. He just hasn't been out (at scrimmages) a whole lot because of some academic classes that just don't correspond with practice. Those guys all stood out as making some plays. I thought both of the quarterbacks did some really good things. They weren't perfect, but they did some really good things and both of them proved that they could lead us down field and make plays and get the ball in the end zone."

There was just one penalty and one turnover in the scrimmage. That must be exciting to see.
"Any time that you can play without turning the ball over you've got a great chance to win. Hopefully we'll get to the point where we will play several games in a row without having a turnover. It's something that we work on very hard and it's nice to see them go out there and play a bunch of plays and to not have a turnover. I was pleased with the tempo and how we got lined up and I was pleased with the efficiency and I thought there was just a lot of good things."

With the play clock changing to 40 seconds starting with the end of the previous play, how does that change things with your offense?
"There were times in the first half, most of the time I noticed it was set at 25 or 26, which would have made it normal just like it was last year. As the game progressed I noticed there were numerous times in the second half where it looked like they were over the ball and they weren't getting away from the ball until there was 19 seconds left on the play clock, so I don't like that. As long as the officials will be efficient and be very fast in getting the ball back in play on time I think it will be good for us offensively. If you get a crew that is actually not as methodical and doesn't do as good of a job of getting the ball set and ready for play it'll actually slow us down a little bit."

It looked like there were several plays where the officials sprinted up to spot the ball and sprinted back out from the line.
"I'm sure it's going to be a change for them, too, and something they've got adjust to, so hopefully it'll work out for all of us. I don't want to lose plays. That's part of the things that we like is our ability to eventually wear a defense down and get them tired and part of that is being able to keep them in their stances sometimes for a long time. Hopefully the officiating crews will do a good job."

How has it changed things not having healthy running backs?
"It's definitely different. We're going to run the football a whole lot more than what people saw on Saturday. Being limited with the running backs has helped the quarterbacks in that they've probably gotten a whole lot more passing work in team than they would have. I really think it's probably bothered the defense as much as anything not having top quality SEC running backs to look at. The other guys do a good job, they try hard, they do the best they can, but they're not the top-notch SEC backs that we have on our team. I think that our defensive players need it just as much as we do."

Neil Caudle looked sharp when he got in the game.
"He did. Neil has done well all spring. He just happens to be the odd man out. Somewhere along the line you have to pick somebody to play. As I told them today, I evaluated Neil more versus Chris than I did versus Kodi because Kodi was going to be in the mix no matter what because of his ability to make plays with his legs. Looking at the two and trying to compared the two this spring, Chris has been at about a 76 percent completion rate for all of the scrimmages and practices, the skelly and the seven on seven. Neil has been around 57, so that's quite a differentiation and even with an arm that's not real good right now he's still just better in the pocket and has a better feel for the game. At the same time Neil has improved dramatically throughout the spring. If he had to play I'm not afraid to stick him in and let him go."

Kodi Burns had his best day throwing on Saturday and he looks like he's really improved his mechanics this spring.
"He's made dramatic improvements. He had to. The thing was, is that he was really bad. It was to the point where I just didn't see how he could ever do it. I don't know if there was something that just went astray mechanically with him. I think the best thing that happened for me was Coach (Hugh) Nall bringing his high school film in after the bowl game was over with and me getting to watch him in high school because he was a really good thrower. I knew that there were some things that probably just happened on a mental or physical basis to him. We went back to scratch and restarted everything again. He's gotten better every day. His completion percentage is around 57 percent, too. He's got to get better and I talked to with him about that today. He needs to get in the mid-60s. If he does that he'll be pretty dynamic. His charts before the bowl game were horrible. He's improved to the point where on Saturday, he threw the ball really well. I think he was around 68 or 69 percent and he made some really good throws. If we can get his delivery just a little bit quicker from the time he makes a decision on who he's going to throw it to until the time he releases it, then he's got a chance. It's like I told him–before he gets out of here three years from now he's got a chance to be really special."

With the quarterbacks wearing the non-contact jerseys, is it okay for a guy like DeRon Furr to make blocks on defensive ends the way he did on Saturday?
"For him it is. Not for anybody else. He's a big kid and he's very physical. Since he got here he's always showed a lot of physicality and it's the only thing right now that he's good at. He's got a lot of things that he's got to get good at if he's going to make it as a quarterback. He's just light years away from being that way. Hopefully he'll come along and get better with his study habits and his work ethic and try to be a good quarterback. The one thing about him, he can run and he likes to hit. Hopefully he'll just continue to try to get a little bit better at the other stuff a quarterback has to do."

We've talked a lot about the inside receivers in this offense. What are you seeing from the outside receivers?
"Rod Smith is steady. He does some good things and he makes some plays. Physically, he's not as gifted with speed as some of the other guys are. But he's a good, steady player and he does some good stuff. I think he and Swinton together will make that position a good position. (Montez) Billings has gotten better. In the last week especially, he has gotten better every day. There are still a few little details still that he has to get better on. We want him to get better on the deep ball and we want him to get better at makings plays when somebody is on him and physically being more effective at that. He always seems to block well and he's getting better at his route running. He's got a chance. (Quindarius) Carr has got to get more consistent. He's made some dynamic plays because he's got great hands. He's got so many little details that he's not doing right that he's got to get a whole lot better at doing that."

Gabe McKenzie is a guy that has worked hard on catching the ball since he got to Auburn. Was he doing something wrong fundamentally?
"He'd better work harder. I've told him that his biggest problem is that he doesn't pay attention to detail when he runs routes and catches the ball. He doesn't exaggerate the look of the ball all the way into the tuck. He's not a natural ball-catcher, and if you're not a natural ball-catcher is means that you have to have incredible fundamentals, and he doesn't. We've talked with him and he's either going to get better at it or he's going to be nothing but a blocker. He'd better get better at it. I'm disappointed in the fact that he has not paid attention to the details. If you watched him in warm-ups, he didn't pay attention to the details in warm-ups. I could have told you before the scrimmage ever started that he was going to drop balls because he didn't pay attention to details in the warm-ups. He'd better get better at it or else he's going to be very limited as to his playing time."

With one practice remaining this spring, a scrimmage on Wednesday, what are you hoping to get out of the final workout?
"I'm hoping that we have a running back healthy so that we can run the ball. I'd like to be able to line up and really get after it in the run game. That'll depend on when we line up, how many of them are healthy and what exactly we want to do. I'd like for the quarterbacks to continue to make improvements in their leadership abilities especially. I'd like for Chris to do a better job of carrying his fakes out. I'd like for Kodi to be more consistent in the throwing game. If we can accomplish those things and we can get everybody to be more consistent and end it on a positive not and have no injuries then I'd be tickled to death."


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