Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin notes that he is no exception as his group has gotten off to a rough start
Successful as the coordinator for the Troy Trojans, Franklin notes that there were plenty of growing pains in his first season there and taking a look back they are eerily similar to the ones being suffered by 2008 Auburn Tigers.
In his first game at Troy the Trojans had 376 yards of offense in a 41-14 win over Rice. Game two was a 26-13 victory over FIU in which the Trojans ran for 245 yards and threw for just 53. Sounds very similar to Auburn's opener when the Tigers ran for 321 yards and threw for just 85 in a win over ULM.
Things get even stranger as you get into the schedule that season. Troy defeated North Texas 14-6 in a game that Franklin says reminded him of Saturday's win over Mississippi State. In that game the Trojans had just 242 yards of offense and turned the ball over twice, but still managed to get the win. For Franklin it was déjà vu and something he says is just part of coaching.
"The good thing for me is I have been through this," Franklin says. "I have seen it where it was ugly before. If you coach long enough, it's always going to be ugly at some time in your life. I've had several text messages from college coaching friends of mine and they said they sure would have like to had an ugly 3-2 win."
The text messages have come from coaching friends including some who were with Franklin that first season at Troy when the struggles were plentiful. That was the beginning of a good run for Franklin at Troy that culminated with one of the best offensive teams in the country last season. Franklin says having gone through this already helps him both deal with it and come up with ways to remedy problems with the offense.
"Those guys were just reminding me of how ugly it was," Franklin points out. "It was a lot uglier then and we got it fixed. We figured it out. We had great unity and we fixed any problems we had in the chemistry part by making sure we had people in the right places doing the right things. We did all that stuff and it worked."
Fixing the mistakes and growing as an offense is something that Franklin says he expects as the 3-0 Tigers move forward in the season. This week the challenge is a big one with defending national champion LSU coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"First of all, we had some chemistry issues that we fixed," Franklin says of his time at Troy.
"Second of all, we had way too much in our playbook of what we were doing. We fixed that, too. We're going to do that here. We feel like we've got the same issues.
"You're always trying to figure out the chemistry of who does what best and how do they do it and how do we fit it all in," he notes. "You hope you can figure it out before the season. Sometimes you can't. It's quite evident I haven't figured it out."
Putting those pieces of the puzzle together is part of installing an offense and making it work. Perhaps at no time is it more important than the first year of the spread offense where so many players play key roles in each and every play. That is something Franklin has stressed since he arrived at Auburn for the Chick-fil-A Bowl last December. While the tempo of practices has improved, Franklin says there's still a need for going above and beyond that he wants to see each day.
"You don't just go out on the field and make great plays," he states. "You've got to practice making great plays. We don't do a very good job of practicing making great plays, of diving for balls that are overthrown and making the hard catch. That's just a growing process. We went through this same growth process at Troy.
"I didn't expect it to be this ugly here, but the bottom line is we won. When it's all over and done with, if we can be ugly and win versus being pretty and lose then I'll take ugly and win every time."
Chemistry is a word that Franklin used on offense to describe the roles of the players in the scheme. The chemistry of the team has been a question mark this season with the defense carrying the load through three games. Franklin says one of the biggest positives so far this season has been Tommy Tuberville's way of coaching his team to be one unit, not offense and defense.
That was apparent Saturday night as the defensive players and coordinator Paul Rhoads talked about doing their jobs and not about having to bail out the offense time and time again. Franklin says because of that there is no pressure on his unit from teammates. Right now says the only pressure is from themselves.
"I think it's always the same," he adds. "I saw the same look in their eyes that I saw at Troy. I saw a look of frustration. They want you to figure it out. I take great pride in figuring it out. We just didn't get it figured out. They are looking to us to fix it and we're looking at them to help us fix it. Together we can get it done. I feel certain that we will."