Tigers Preparing for New Auburn Offense

CLEMSON – Vic Koenning had studied the Auburn offense for countless hours and had broken down some 151 different offensive formations. Now, that could all be for naught with the announcement Wednesday of a new offensive coordinator for Auburn.

The Tigers hired Troy offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, who likes to run a no-huddle spread offense. He held that same position at Kentucky, too. It's very different from West Coast style offense that previous offensive coordinator Al Borges ran over the last four seasons.

Koenning, Clemson's defensive coordinator, said he will start to study Troy's game film from this year, too. He's just waiting on all 12 game tapes to arrive.

Koenning does not know Franklin. He had already left Troy for Clemson by the time Franklin arrived at the small Alabama school.

"We've probably got some things we can go to, but we're not going to panic and just abort everything that we've practiced," said Koenning, who's getting his defense ready for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. "It'll probably be hard for them to do a lot of things different."

The big unknown is whether or not Franklin will attempt to implement his new scheme, only try to put in a little or opt to wait until spring practice before putting it into the offense.

"I'm sure Tony's a good enough coach where if they let him do some of his stuff they'll find some things they can do," Koenning said. "We'll just have to try to adjust to it. …

"Right now, the thing that concerns me the most about them is their ability to run the ball right at you, and their power and strength and use their tight ends and their fullbacks and their running backs. I don't know if they'll try and spread the ball out. If they think they can put that offense in in two weeks, or in seven or eight practices, then I guess we'll find out."

Clemson will have completed three of the 15 allowed practices before Auburn has its first, which starts Friday.

Putting in a new offense, especially the spread, wouldn't be all that difficult, according to Clemson offensive coordinator Rob Spence. He said that sort of offense is easier to learn because there's less pass protection schemes to learn.

"For us, it would be extraordinarily difficult because of the no-huddle aspect of our offense," Spence said. "It would be almost near impossible. But with creativity, flexibility and ingenuity, there's a way to get a good chunk of offense in in a very short period of time.

"It would require a lot of commitment on both, players and coaches, and a whole lot of time invested. In a short period of time, you could probably do a decent job of getting some really good thoughts in. It would be difficult to prepare for because you wouldn't know what you're going to see on defense."

One might think that it would be very difficult for a quarterback to all of a sudden switch offenses after running the same one for the last four seasons, but Spence said smart players can handle change.

"It's difficult … but they've been coached really well on offense," he said. "I would imagine their quarterback is very ready to do most anything. … That quarterback at Auburn, he's seen a lot of football and he's been coached a lot, and that means he's probably able to adjust quickly."

Watkins and Billie Watch: The final countdown as to whether senior outside linebackers Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie will be academically eligible to play in the bowl is on.

Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden said he will learn Saturday about their future. While things don't look great, Bowden added that the odds were stacked against the two from playing the last couple of years, too.

"I don't know (if they will be eligible)," Bowden said. "I've been told their chances would be slim to be back this year and they were."

If Watkins can't go, don't be shocked to see middle linebacker Antonio Clay move to Will. As first reported by CUTigers.com a couple of weeks ago, moving Clay to Will for next year is something the staff is strongly considering.

"Obviously, we'd be limited in our number of linebackers, and if a guy gets banged up, we're going to have to do some cross training," Koenning said.

There was one other move involving starters that the Tigers considered, but scratched.

"We thought about moving (defensive tackle) Rashaad Jackson to safety, but he was a little too slow coming out of his back peddle," Koenning said, obviously joking.

Quick Hits: The team dressed in shells today, but will wear full pads next week, with live hitting on Monday, Wednesday and maybe one other day. … Wednesday's practice consisted of working on fundamentals and conditioning. …

Bowden said no other school has inquired about any of his assistants thus far, but added he expects it to happen. … He also said there have been no discipline or transfer casualties. However, Bowden said it will be a little while longer before anyone announces that they're transferring.

"They might come see me after the semester," he said. "They usually want their bowl money and bowl gifts. Usually I get that after. They start getting money pretty soon." …

Bowden didn't seem the least bit concerned about the gripes last week from star running back James Davis about not getting the ball in crucial situations.

"I haven't really seen his comments, but usually wideouts want to catch it and running backs want to run it," Bowden said. "Everybody wants a piece of the action. I have not seen his comments, but I'd be disappointed if he didn't want to run the ball."

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