Since his arrival during preparations for the Chick-fil-A Bowl last December, the Auburn offense has undergone a major transformation. Implementing Franklin's offensive schemes also meant a major change in practice and preparation.
In order for the offense to execute a no-huddle system, it must prepare in the same manner. The initial test against Clemson was a success, but it won't be long until Auburn's offense faces its biggest challenge. Preparing the offense for an isolated game is one thing, but grooming an offense for the challenges of conference play is another.
During Auburn's groundwork for the upcoming season, Franklin has placed a premium on the execution of details. Focusing on the basic fundamentals during practice along with a systematic repetition of drills, the Auburn offense should be far more consistent and less likely to make mistakes. Will this mean perfection? No, but it should result in better productivity and efficiency, something the Auburn offense has lacked the past two seasons.
Sometimes a situation can become so bad there it seems that there is nowhere to go but up. This has been the case for the Auburn offense during the last four coaching changes. Though the level of improvement has varied, Auburn has progressed during each change in offense dating back to 1992.
After a dismal 5-5-1 season, Auburn improved to 11-0 the following year, mainly because of the improvement on the offensive side of the ball. Coach Terry Bowden described Auburn's offensive improvement as executing at the right time.
During his evaluation of game film of Auburn's 1992 offense, Bowden pointed out Auburn's inability to execute at critical moments as the primary reason the Tigers struggled offensively.
Yards per play: 1992 (4.49)/1993 (5.77)
Yards per game: 1992 (317.5)/1993 (420.0)
TD Ratio: 1992 (1 every 35.4 plays)/1993 (1 every 19.5 plays)
Points per game: 1992 (20.7)/1993 (32.1)
Play of 30 yards or more: 1992 (1 every 70.7 plays)/1993 (1 every 33.4 plays)
1st down yards per play: 1992 (5.00)/1993 (6.44)
3rd down percentage: 1992 (31.8)/1993 (39.0)
Red Zone TD percentage: 1992 (38.1)/1993 (56.6)
Though Auburn finished with a losing record in 1999, Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone was able to improve the offense from 1998. Despite Auburn's continued struggles establishing a running game, Mazzone was able to enhance the Tigers' pass offense. Compared to 1998, the 1999 Auburn offense threw seven less interceptions and passed for eight more touchdowns.
Yards per play: 1998 (4.72)/1999 (4.99)
Yards per game: 1998 (270.2)/1999 (294.6)
TD Ratio: 1998 (1 every 42.1 plays)/1999 (1 every 27.2 plays)
Points per game: 1998 (15.1)/1999 (21.2)
Play of 30 yards or more: 1998 (1 every 55.1 plays)/1999 (1 every 38.7 plays)
1st down yards per play: 1998 (4.61) / 1999 (4.21)
3rd down percentage: 1998 (32.2 percent)/1999 (36.5 percent)
Red Zone TD percentage: 1998 (52.6 percent)/1999 (57.1 percent)
Except for yards per play on first down, Auburn improved on the other remaining categories.
Auburn had issues on both sides of the ball during the 2001 season, which resulted in the replacement of both coordinators the following year. Coach Bobby Petrino had a major impact on the development of quarterback Jason Campbell during the 2002 campaign.
Yards per play: 2001 (5.33)/2002 (5.84)
Yards per game: 2001 (358.8)/2002 (387.8)
TD Ratio: 2001 (1 every 26.4 plays)/2002 (1 every 17.2 plays)
Points per game: 2001 (22.2)/2002 (29.8)
Play of 30 yards or more: 2001 (1 every 26.4 plays)/2002 (1 every 28.7 plays)
1st down yards per play: 2001 (6.21)/2002 (6.08)
3rd down percentage: 2001 (32.7 percent)/ 2002 (44.6 percent)
Red Zone TD percentage: 2001 (46.9 percent)/2002 (64.8 percent)
Auburn improved on six of the eight offensive categories from 2001 to 2002, but improvement on the defensive side of the ball made Auburn more of a complete team.
Similar to the change from 1992 to 1993, Offensive Coordinator Al Borges worked with primarily the same offensive starters in 2004, that were on the field in 2003.
Yards per play: 2003 (5.66)/2004 (6.36)
Yards per game: 2003 (376.0)/ 2004 (420.7)
TD Ratio: 2003 (1 every 20.6 plays)/2004 (1 every 16.5 plays)
Points per game: 2003 (26.3)/ 2004 (32.1)
Play of 30 yards or more: 2003 (1 every 37.6 plays)/2004 (1 every 22.6 plays)
1st down yards per play: 2003 (6.69)/ 2004 (6.65)
3rd down percentage: 2003 (36.5 percent)/ 2004 (45.9 percent)
Red Zone TD percentage: 2003 (58.8 percent)/2004 (61.9 percent)
Other than yards averaged on first down, the 2004 offense improved on seven of the eight offensive categories. Auburn's drastic improvement during third down situations and big play ability made Auburn a more dynamic offense.
Borges emphasized distributing the ball into the hands of his skill players, resulting in the best offense in the Southeastern Conference.
The numbers were down in 2007, which means Franklin should have a high probability of improving on all eight offensive categories in 2008.
Yards per play: 2007 (4.85)
Yards per game: 2007 (363.1)
TD Ratio: 2007 (1 every 25.7 plays)
Points per game: 2003 (26.3)
Play of 30 yards or more: 2007 (1 every 64.2 plays)
1st down yards per play: 2007 (4.74)
3rd down percentage: 2007 (36.6 percent)
Red Zone TD percentage: 2007 (62.5 percent)
Except for red zone TD percentage, Auburn should easily improve on the seven remaining categories. Once again, because the numbers were so low in 2007, there should be nowhere to go but up in 2008. Perhaps this is the very reason why the majority of Auburn fans are expecting a distinct improvement this season.
This more than any other aspect of the offense needed improvement, which is why Coach Tommy Tuberville added Tony Franklin to the staff. Based on previous coaching changes, there is no reason not to expect improvement in 2008.
Pass Ratings: 1992 (96.5)/1993 (135.9)
1998 (97.5)/1999 (130.5)
2001 (124.3)/2002 (138.8)
2003 (132.2)/2004 (173.6)
The major challenge Franklin will face in 2008 is the previous coaching changes involved a returning starter at quarterback. This won't be the case in 2008 as Chris Todd and Kodi Burns have never been full-time starters at Auburn. With a pass rating of 115.4 last year for the Tigers, an upgrade should be expected when you consider 89 quarterbacks around Division I football had a better passer rating in 2007.
Kodi Burns is shown at a recent practice.
Auburn has installed a new offense, but has yet to decide on a starting quarterback. Due to the lack of experience at the position, the offense will likely suffer through a few growing pains. The key to success will be how consistent and efficient the offense executes in 2008.
There is enough talent on offense for the Tigers to make a comparable improvement as the 1993 and 2004 squads accomplished. Averaging better than 400 yards and 30 points per game is a realistic goal for the 2008 Auburn offense.