Franklin trying to resolve Auburn’s offensive woes

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, September 30, 2008

AUBURN (AP) _ The longer Auburn’s offensive struggles, the tougher Tony Franklin’s harshest critic gets.

He uses words like “horrible” and “stupid” and frequently comments on what a lousy job the 13th-ranked Tigers’ new offensive coordinator is doing. If Auburn fans have a gripe with Franklin at the moment, chances are it’s nothing he isn’t saying himself.

“I just don’t think I’ve done a very good job of coaching it,” he said. “I mean, it’s pretty obvious that these guys don’t look well-coached. And that’s me. I have not done a good job of coaching. The finger’s pointing at me and it deserves to be.”

The Tigers’ adjustment to the up-tempo spread offense so ballyhooed in the offseason has certainly been rocky. The quarterback situation remains unsettled after five games and the offense ranks in the bottom half of the Southeastern Conference in all the major statistical categories.

It seems to have become a matter of molding his offense to the players, not the other way around.

“It’s not the Tony Franklin offense, it’s the Auburn offense,” Franklin said. “It’s Auburn’s offense. It’s these players’ offense. And it’s my job to find out what they can do.

“I think anybody who knows, and who’s watched most of the stuff I’ve done throughout my life, there’s a lot of adjustments that have been made since I’ve been here. It’s just a part of coaching, you try to adjust to your talent each place you go.”

Coach Tommy Tuberville said Tuesday he’s still enamored of the spread offense that is a departure from his formerly more old-fashioned preferences.

The Tigers have scored only three offensive touchdowns in three SEC games. They rank 112th nationally in third-down conversions and no better than 90th in six other offensive categories.

Other than quarterback Chris Todd, most of the current players were recruited when Auburn was still running the West Coast offense.

“We’re 4-1 and played a very tough schedule to this point and we haven’t seen hardly anything from this offense,” Tuberville said. “Once we get going, it’s going to be much better. There’s no panic mode.

“One day we’ll have the talent where we can say, ‘We’ll run 100 percent of what Tony likes to run.’ Right now we don’t have the talent in some areas. We have to take advantage of our offensive talent versus the defense that we play.”

Franklin’s offense hasn’t been as productive since its Auburn debut with only a couple of weeks of practice before the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over Clemson. The Tigers had season-highs of 90 offensive plays and 423 yards.

“I guess I coached them down since the bowl game, because they certainly haven’t gotten any better,” Franklin said.

The Tigers have run more offensive plays than any of the other five SEC teams that have played five games. The no-huddle, hurry-to-the-line attack still hasn’t been as fast-paced as Franklin was looking for.

“We’ve never played at the tempo,” he said. “We don’t understand tempo yet. We think we do, but we don’t have a clue. We’re not playing as fast. We don’t understand what it means to play fast. We think we do, but we don’t.”

Mostly, though, Franklin has reserved his criticism for himself.

—On his decision to alternate Todd and Kodi Burns during the first game. “I was stupid. I think I made a horrible mistake in believing I could do something that most people have never done.”

—On fans booing Todd and the offense against Tennessee: “Well, they should. If I was them, I’d boo. I’d boo me. I’d be angry. Everybody’s expectations were high. My expectations were high.”

—On whether Tuberville is giving him the autonomy to run the offense: “All the screw-ups are mine, trust me. Coach Tuberville is just trying to win football games.”

And the Tigers are still doing that, offensive troubles aside.

On Saturday, they visit No. 19 Vanderbilt, which is allowing a league-high 364 yards a game.

“We’re 4-1 and we have seven games left and offensively we’ve played as bad as you can play,” center Ryan Pugh said. “The only thing now is go up from here.”