From the Sidelines: Encouraging news on the Plains

Published 11:02 pm Friday, February 27, 2009

Word out of the Auburn camp has been very positive lately. First, new head coach Gene Chizik plucked a recruiting class the liked enough to rank No. 15. liked it slightly less, slating it at No. 19. The difference is subjective and revolves around whether or not Mississippi Gulf Coast defenders Eltoro Freeman and Demond Washington are in fact five-star players. For the record, Scout says they are while Rivals disagrees.

Either way, Chizik and his staff have to be commended on pulling such a strong class amid difficult circumstances.

But what came out of The Plains earlier in the week was even better news than Auburn’s solid crop of incoming talent. The Tigers are tossing out the depth chart. While it seems neutral enough on the surface, the Wednesday proclamation by new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was exactly when Auburn players and fans needed to hear.

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Many detractors of the now-departed Tommy Tuberville harped on their perception that he and his staff had grown complacent and it had begun to manifest itself in the players. Whether or not that was the case is up for debate. Either way, it appears that will not be an issue with the new offensive regime.

Moreover, Malzahn, who engineered one of the most prolific offenses in the country while at Tulsa in 2008, added something else that was long overdue for the Auburn family. The team will have a quarterback. It won’t have a two-headed monster at quarterback. It won’t insert Kodi Burns when it wants to run and Chris Todd when it wants to throw. It will have a single quarterback.

Malzahn called his scheme quarterback-oriented and cited the need for the team to have a leader before saying that the Tigers would have one guy.

That realization alone gives him a leg up on the tag team of play callers Auburn employed last season. By going with one quarterback, the Tigers will allow both its signal-caller and its offensive unit to grow within the new system. That doesn’t even account for the improved team chemistry that will result from consistency at the highest-profile position on the field.

Auburn fans should be confident in that decision. The Golden Hurricane averaged 47 points, 27.9 first downs and just under 570 yards per game last season. Those numbers would seem to indicate Malzahn knows a little bit about offensive success.

The key now is for the Auburn coaches, and fans, to stand by which ever quarterback trots onto the field. This entire process is going to be exactly that a process for everyone involved, especially the kid who will be expected to take the 75-plus snaps a game for which Malzahn’s offenses are known.