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me Barrett Sallee
Coming off a season full of highs and lows, the Auburn Tigers head into 2008 with questions abound. Gone are Defensive and Offensive Coordinators Will Muschamp and Al Borges, in are Paul Rhoads and Tony Franklin respectively. Major changes like that can lead to a few growing pains. But, the Auburn Tigers won't have any growing pains with these two. As a matter of fact, things should improve…immediately.
Rhoads comes to the Plains after a successful eight years with the Pitt Panthers. Despite a difficult season at Pitt last season (5-7), Rhoads' D ranked 5th nationally in total defense. The lasting impression of that defense being the 13-9 shutdown of the potent West Virginia offense, knocking the Mountaineers out of a potential BCS Championship Game appearance, and sending Rich Rodriguez scurrying to Ann Arbor.
Auburn Head Coach Tommy Tuberville is glad to have him. He's a guy that Tuberville had his eye on several times when DC positions have become open on his staff. He has a reputation for stingy pass defense and, with Sen'Derrick Marks and Antonio Coleman up front, and Tray Blackmon back at linebacker, the Auburn defense will be all systems go for 2008. Tuberville has made a career out of producing solid defenses year-after-year. 2008 will be no different.
On offense, the difference will be a little more apparent. Newcomer Tony Franklin's style is about a 180 degree departure from the outgoing style of Al Borges. Franklin comes to the Plains from Troy, where he led the Trojans from the worst offense in the Sun Belt Conference prior to his arrival in 2006, to the best offense in the conference in 2007, and the 17th ranked offense nationally, with his up-tempo version of the spread offense.
Job #1 at Auburn? Finding a QB to replace the departed Brandon Cox. The likely candidate is reining #2 QB, sophomore, Kodi Burns. However, with the arrival of Tony Franklin comes junior college-transfer, and former Texas Tech QB Chris Todd, who played last season at Hutchinson (KS) C.C. Todd is well-schooled on the Tony Franklin system, and has the ability and knowledge to step right in and run the show. Who gets the starting nod? Probably Burns. But, it really won't matter. Franklin expects to run 60% more plays on offense than Auburn ran last season, so both QB's will be needed.
The words "spread offense" makes some SEC loyalists shutter. It shouldn't. Auburn's version will still rely on the running game, just as Auburn has done in the past. Franklin's system is based on keeping the defense off-balance, controlling tempo with variable snap timing, and wearing them down. Franklin won't wear defenses down in the traditional "SEC style," running it down your throat, but the end result will still be the same.
It should be fun, Auburn fans. The 2008 season can't get here soon enough. And just think, before we know it, it will be Thanksgiving weekend and time for the Iron Bowl!
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