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Auburn photo by Todd Van Emst / Auburn offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, shown during the early stages of spring practice, is bringing some old-school elements back to the Tigers.

Artifact. Dinosaur. Relic.

Those terms are a bit strong when describing Mike Bobo, but Auburn's new offensive coordinator and the former Georgia quarterback does steadfastly savor the old-school elements in his play-calling responsibilities.

"Somebody told me once that you've got to let them know you're at the ballpark," Bobo said. "Sometimes there is not a better way to do that than to get under center and run power, and that's what we want to be. We want to have a physical run game, and I think you can be a lot more physical sometimes when you're under center."

In a college football world filled with more and more pass-happy, up-tempo types such as Mississippi State second-year coach Mike Leach and new Tennessee coach Josh Heupel, the tried and true Bobo seems to stand out more and more. During his tenure as offensive coordinator under former Georgia head coach Mark Richt, Bobo oversaw the Bulldogs setting school records for yards in a season (6,547 in 2012), yards per game (484.2 in 2013) and points per game (38.4 in 2014).

That success earned him an opportunity as a head coach at Colorado State University, where he went 21-18 with three bowl appearances his first three seasons but just 7-17 in his final two years. He returned to the Southeastern Conference last year as South Carolina's offensive coordinator, helping the Gamecocks improve from 22.4 points per game in 2019 — a 72-10 humbling of Charleston Southern factored into that average — to 23.5 points per game last season against strictly SEC opposition.

New Auburn coach Bryan Harsin had five head-to-head matchups with Bobo's CSU Rams as the Boise State boss, so there was no unfamiliarity in Harsin making his biggest offensive hire.

"We're speaking the same language," Harsin said.

One of the biggest challenges this spring was getting junior quarterback Bo Nix to speak that same language as well. Nix has started for the Tigers from day one and guided them to a memorable 48-45 topping of Alabama as a freshman, but there have been plenty of inconsistencies through his first two seasons that often included taking the snap from shotgun formation and quickly bailing from the pocket.

Bobo's arrival provided an abrupt change.

"I don't know if Nix had taken 10 snaps under center in his career, but he's done a good job of that," Bobo said. "We are not going to be primarily under center, and we're not going to be primarily in the gun. We will have a good mixture of both, and it's not that difficult."

Auburn is coming off a disappointing 6-5 season that included a resounding 48-11 walloping of LSU but also the program's first loss to South Carolina since the Gamecocks joined the SEC and another inept offensive output against Georgia. Gus Malzahn could not survive the roller-coaster ride and is now at Central Florida, which opened the door for Harsin after his 69-19 run with the Broncos.

The Tigers were at their best offensively last year when the attack was built off running back Tank Bigsby, who rushed for 834 yards and 6.0 yards per carry as a freshman. Bigsby and change-of-pace senior Shaun Shivers are back and have openly embraced what Bobo is providing.

"We're more downhill this year," Bigsby said. "We've got Mike Bobo, and we've got Coach Harsin, and they're big offensive guys. I feel like we're going to be really good at what we do, especially running the ball. I feel like we're going to be great at that."

Said Shivers: "It's more like attacking the defense. I think it's more of our style here as running backs — to get downhill and just do what we do."

Bobo was effective calling the two-minute offense in Athens with the likes of Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray at quarterback, and his love of power football was understandable with a stretch of running backs that included Knowshon Moreno, Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb, who rushed for 1,547 yards as a freshman during Bobo's final season in 2014. It hasn't taken long for Bobo to find favor with Bigsby, either.

"He's not complacent," Bobo said. "He doesn't think he's arrived. The great ones have it in them. They always want to get better and push themselves, which makes my job easier."

Auburn is rebuilding at receiver after losing Anthony Schwartz, Eli Stove and Seth Williams, but the Tigers do have five starters back up front. Only time will tell if Auburn can evoke the Pat Dye days of wearing down rivals on the way to SEC championships, and the talent that is being assembled annually at Alabama and Georgia will make that task quite towering.

The Tigers certainly have an offensive coordinator eager to give it a try.

"We're going to have elements of spread, and we're going to have elements under center," Bobo said. "We're going to have elements of two tight ends and elements of fullback. We want to be able to do everything. We want to be a wide-open, pro-style offense."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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