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Friday, February 21, 2014

Looking Forward: Offense Part 2

Nick Marshall on the big screen in Pasadena. 
photo by Klell Lawrence

Last we spoke, we were deep into the running game, and trying to look at what the future holds for Auburn's rushing attack this coming football season. Now it's time to look at the passing game.

For every pass, someone has to be there to catch the ball. Auburn has plenty of returning talent, and  some very high quality recruits coming in. The undisputed leader of the wide receivers group? Sammie Coates. Coates plays with a physical presence not seen at Auburn since Courtney Taylor terrorized SEC defenses.

Joining Coates next season is Trovon Reed, Quan Bray, Dominic Walker, Ricardo Louis, Tony Stevens, Mark White, B.J. Trimble, Marcus Davis, Melvin Ray, Cade Hoffman, Dimitri Reese, Gray King, and Jaylon Denson. The new recruits are Stanton Truitt and D'haquille Williams.

The Tight Ends are involved in the passing game as well. Sometimes they are lined up at H-Back, although they are utilized at many positions in Gus Malzahn's offense. Auburn returns both of the key figures at this position from last year in C.J. Uzomah, and Brandon Fulse. Others include Wade Norberg, Spencer Smith, Michael Clifton, and Wirth Campbell. The new recruit here is Chris Laye.

** Editors note: I would like to correct the mistake of not adding Ricky Parks name to the list of H-Back/Tight End. Parks was highly touted, and is back with the team after being away for a short time. He will be a factor going forward.

Last season as a whole was the best as far as performance goes for the receivers since the 2010 campaign which also led Auburn to the BCS Championship game.With a second year of conditioning and return of such a talented group, look for the passing game at Auburn to be improved next season. Hard to argue that anyone in the country will return more talent at these two positions in the entire country next fall.

All of this talent is worthless if Auburn can't throw the ball accurately, and that leads us to the Quarterback position. Nick Marshall has been named the undisputed starter for next season at Auburn. That takes all of the anxiety away from Marshall, and allows him to work on any of his deficiencies, while also improving what he did well last season. 

Malzahn has already stated that this is his first year, as a college coach, to have a returning starter at the QB position. Using that as a standard, then Marshall should be night and day improved as a passer by the fall campaign. That's not to say that Nick was a bad passer, not at all. Lets look at his numbers from 2013, shall we?

 Passing           gp effic    comp-att-int pct   yds   td   lg   avg/g
Nick Marshall 12 144.04 128-212-5   60.4 1759 12   88   146.

Here are the stats from Marshall's backup, Jeremy Johnson

Passing             gp   effic      comp-att-int   pct    yds  td  lg   avg/g
Jeremy Johnson 6   195.73   29-41-2          70.7  422  6   67  70.3

Clearly, Auburn has a more than capable backup QB. From what we have seen, Johnson only lacks SEC experience as a starter on the road. He will pass that with flying colors when his number is called, I have little doubt.

Taking a look at the running ability of Marshall, we reveal a true dual threat to any defense. Nick proved he can run the zone read as well as any QB in the country. His size and speed are assets that serve him well. He's listed as 6' 1" and 210 pounds, and has cat quick bursts that leave most linebackers in the wind.

In summary, Auburn has a lot of returning pieces in the offense. Only one player at the line of scrimmage is gone, and replacing Tre Mason may not be as big a factor as most are making it out to be. Auburn won't need someone to carry the ball as many times as Tre did last season. 

The need will be for one of the backs to be a good blocking back during passing plays. That is not to say that Auburn won't run the ball. The passing game of the Tigers, mostly Nick Marshall, will be much improved, and thus taking the pressure off of the running game by making the defense play pass defense much more so than last season.

A seasoned QB, with ample talent at RB, and the most talented WR corps in the country should be able to put explosive numbers up on defenses behind that heralded offensive line. I would not be surprised at all to see this Auburn team have two 1,000 yard receivers along with two 1,000 yard rushers. 

My prediction is based solely on Auburn staying healthy. If that happens look for at least 3,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing. Auburn will be one of the most difficult teams to stop for any defense they face. This offense should be able to score on anyone, and set a bunch of records before it is all said and done.


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