Spreading it around at Auburn
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008
As a Troy alum, our loss is your gain.
In case any of you haven’t heard by now, Auburn’s offensive coordinator Al Borges resigned this week, and Tony Franklin was hired as his successor Wednesday.
Franklin has spent the last two years as the offensive coordinator for Troy.
It’s clear that the Auburn offense needs some kind of boost, and Franklin may be just what the doctor ordered.
It’s interesting to track the offensive progress of these two programs over the last several years.
Let’s start in 2004.
It was Borges’s first year as offensive coordinator and the Tigers went undefeated.
The Trojans were in their second year under offensive coordinator Mark Fleetwood.
Auburn’s offense was very solid, averaging nearly 421 yards per game, which was good enough to be 25th in the nation.
In the meantime, Troy was 113th out of 117 teams, averaging only 284 yards per game.
In 2005, the Tigers dropped from 25 to 37 nationally in offense, with a drop in production of about 11 yards per game.
The ranking drop sounds bad, but looking at the numbers, 11 yards per game isn’t that much.
Troy remained near the bottom, ranking 109 out of 117 with 285 yards per game.
Fleetwood’s offense was a run-first offense, and while DeWhitt Betterson was around, it was adequate.
However, teams eventually realized that Troy was a run-first team, and shut that down.
I seem to remember one pathetic occasion against Middle Tennessee State when Troy had first and goal inside the three-yard line and was unable to score.
A very good goalline stand by MTSU?
A sign of the end of the Fleetwood era at Troy?
Let’s move on to 2006.
Enter Tony Franklin at Troy.
Franklin brought in his no-huddle, throw it everywhere on the field offense.
One of the main concerns was that Troy didn’t have the athletes to run this kind of offense because they had been recruiting for a run-first, smash-mouth style.
Fortunately, Troy also got Omar Haugabook, a dual-threat quarterback who transferred from Dodge City Community College in Kansas.
With Haugabook at the helm and Franklin running the show, the Trojans’ offense jumped to 320 yards a game and 77th in the nation.
Interestingly, Auburn was No. 78 with 321 yards per game, a huge drop-off in production.
Finally, this last year, it seems as though the two teams have changed places.
Troy has been lighting up the scoreboard with 453 yards per game, good enough for 17th in the nation.
Auburn has fallen to 101st in the country with 327 yards per game.
Franklin’s success has been apparent.
But Troy plays in the Sun Belt, you say.
The quality of athlete there is not the same as players in the SEC.
Troy put up 376 yards of offense against Arkansas, 336 against Florida and actually outgained Georgia 488-465 in Athens.
There goes that argument.
Not to mention his system worked at Kentucky while he was there in the late ’90s.
I think Auburn will have some success under Franklin next year, but like at Troy, it will be a year or two before it really ‘clicks’.
Another reason for Auburn to be hopeful is freshman Kodi Burns.
Burns was a dual-threat quarterback in high school, and he should fit perfectly in Franklin’s system.
Haugabook has shown that such a quarterback can run the offense very well, as long as he can make accurate throws when needed, and know when to run the ball.
My concern now is who Troy will get to fill the void.
This is not the first time something like this has happened to the Trojans.
In 2004, Vic Koenning helped make Troy’s defense one of the top defenses in the nation.
That year, they finished in the top 10 in scoring defense, rushing defense, yards per play, and pass efficiency defense.
Sure, current Cowboy Demarcus Ware probably had something to do with that, but so did Koenning.
After that season, Koenning was wooed to greener pastures and took the defensive coordinator spot at Clemson.
In the two years since he’s been there, Clemson has been a top-25 defense, and the Trojan defense hasn’t been nearly as dominant.
The positive side of all this is that Troy can attract top-tier talent like Franklin and Koenning.
The trick is getting them to stick around.