Sen' Derrick Marks
Auburn’s spread offense isn’t just new to coach Tommy Tuberville. Or even Auburn.
This version of the spread offense, according to Tuberville, has never been implemented before in the Southeastern Conference. Not by Florida. Not by anyone.
“Everybody says, ‘Well, some teams run this.’ Not like we run it,” Tuberville said. “It’s no-huddle, fast-paced, fast-tempo, involves your quarterback in running the ball, spreads the field and uses a lot of wide receivers.”
Tuberville said Urban Meyer’s offense at Florida doesn’t use the tailback, a position the Tigers want to use with Ben Tate and Brad Lester in the backfield. The quarterback, either Kodi Burns or Chris Todd, will run the ball only about six times per game, far less than the rushing attempts posted by Florida’s Tim Tebow.
Tuberville said he made the switch after watching opponents consistently put eight, nine or even 10 defenders in the box to subdue Auburn’s dynamic running game.
The game, he said, is different. More high schools are running a version of the spread offense. Classic drop-back passers like Georgia’s Matthew Stafford are more difficult to find. Tuberville had to change philosophies. The Tigers scored more than 20 points in conference play just twice last year and averaged 67.4 plays per game during the regular season.
“If we wanted to consistently say, ‘OK, we’re going to stay with winning eight, nine games, sometimes maybe win 10,’ I think we could have stayed in the two-back offense,” Tuberville said.
Those win totals will often send teams to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, where Auburn spent the holidays last season. But the Tigers showed they are capable of more in last year’s bowl game.
Under new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, the Tigers ran 90 plays against Clemson and posted a season-high 423 total yards in a 23-20 overtime win.
“I think they put in the offense in three days, so it’s going to be amazing to see what we can do after the whole spring and two-a-days,” Auburn defensive lineman Sen’Derrick Marks said.
Auburn possesses the tools to make the offense work this year. The Tigers have a pair each of viable quarterbacks and running backs. Lee Ziemba is entrenched at left tackle after just one season. Receivers Tim Hawthorne and Mario Fannin are lacking in experience but not talent.
And, as usual, the Tigers have a defense that can keep up with a faster game behind Marks, linebacker Tray Blackmon and corners Jerraud Powers and Aairon Savage. Fans can read about their progress throughout the year when Marks starts writing his diary for The Sporting News.
Marks, a gregarious character with a continuous chuckle, said he’ll write one entry per week.
“I think it’s going to be like a diary,” Marks said. “I grew up thinking diaries were for females. I’m getting feminine right now, because I’m writing a diary. I can’t wait. I don’t like being alone. I don’t like being bored. I love to talk.”
Asked if the players would critique Marks’ diary, Auburn center Jason Bosley laughed.
“If he says something stupid, we will,” he said.