New Season, Same Saga Plays Out on the Plains
November 1, 2020 | View PDF
It’s an all too familiar story that’s mushrooming up again at Auburn. The “we need to fire the head coach” anthem is growing stronger each week. For more seasons than I can count, this thing seems to bubble up as the losses pile up.
So many times, the blame sees to get focused on the offensive coordinator. So let me see if I can get this straight. During the past four years, Auburn has had four different play callers, offensive coordinators; Rhett Lashley, Kenny Dillingham, Head Coach Gus Malzahn called plays last year, now Chad Morris is the offensive coordinator. Working with a new offensive coordinator can put strain on the players’ ability to execute. And doing it every year is very difficult.
So is it the coaching or the players? Over the past five years, Auburn recruiting classes have ranked 11th or better nationally. However of the top fifty recruits in 2019, Georgia got 8, Alabama Got 6 and Auburn got two. In 2018, Georgia got 9, Alabama got 3 and Auburn got 1.
Auburns 2018 top fifty recruit was Joey Gatewood, ranked number 49. This is the young man from Jacksonville Florida, who likely should have started the 2019 season. According to a number of people close to the program, he was ahead of freshman Bo Nix, yet Gatewood received almost no playing time. Five completions out of seven passing attempts, two for touchdowns. But he left the program and transferred to Kentucky.
Auburns leading rusher for 2018 and 2019, JaTarvious Whitlow left after the 2019 season in the transfer portal. The fact is that in the past year alone, Auburn has lost 10 players to the transfer portal, or who left the program. It’s no question that Auburn’s offensive line is woefully inadequate. And while the majority of Auburn’s returning Offensive linemen have little to no starting experience, they could have used second year player Justin Osborne who also transferred.
Both offensive and defensive line play is uncharacteristically weak. The Tigers are losing the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball. This was eye-poppingly obvious in the Georgia game and surprisingly in the South Carolina game as well.
So who has transferred; Osborne joins quarterbacks Joey Gatewood and Will Appleton, along with starting running back JaTarvious Whitlow.
Additionally, wide receivers Zach Farrar, Marquis McClain and Jashawn Sheffield. Defensive end Charles Moore and linebackers Michael Harris and Sawyer Hennis. The Tigers also lost veteran running back Malik Miller.
Now why these facts don’t have alarm bells going off like a four alarm fire astonishes me.
Auburn’s starting quarterback this year is second in passing attempts and last in passing completion percentage and 13th in yards per pass in the SEC so far this year. His average yards per completion last year 6.7 and this year 6.12, next to the bottom of the SEC. His quarterback rating thus far is 13th in the SEC.
I’ve watched every minute of every Auburn game this season and two things stand out. Auburn does not posses the personnel to compete at the top of the SEC food chain. And secondly, when Auburn gets in a tight situation, the offense looks a heck of a lot like the backyard football games we played as kids. While first year offensive coordinator Chad Morris had troubles at Arkansas as head coach, he brings strong credentials from Clemson as the offensive play caller.
Auburn recruits well enough to win, but can’t hold on to these top tier recruits. And this is not new at Auburn.
The gushing wound bleeding talented players off into the transfer portal is showing up each week on the football field, when will it end.