Auburn's Offense Unique Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge For Clemson

Auburn changed offensive coordinators after the regular season

Dec. 29, 2007

ATLANTA (AP) - Auburn's offense is a mystery heading into the Chick-fil-A-Bowl against Clemson.

Auburn changed offensive coordinators after the regular season, hiring Tony Franklin from Troy on Dec. 12 to replace Al Borges, who resigned under pressure. Franklin was running a spread offense at Troy, while the Tigers have been using a West Coast scheme.

There has been much speculation about what Auburn will do Monday night against Clemson.

Who will call the plays? How much of the no-huddle spread was Franklin able to install in two weeks? If Auburn spends most of its time in the new offense, might freshman quarterback Kodi Burns play more than senior Brandon Cox?

At the center of the intrigue is Franklin, who emphasized Saturday that just as Auburn's offensive players are learning his system, he's still learning his players.

"I guess I could talk about several of our players, but I don't know hardly any of their names," Franklin said before showing reporters his list of Auburn names and uniform numbers.

"I'm probably the only coach who comes in here with a roster of his own team," he said, adding the attempt to teach his offense so quickly "has been a real unusual experience for us."

The bowl preparation also has been painfully unusual for Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who may deserve overtime pay after his extra hours spent studying game film of Auburn's offense under Borges and Franklin's offense at Troy.

"We try to be detail-oriented, but we really don't know what we are going to get," Koenning said.

"We're trying to prepare for almost anything. We're forced to kind of prepare for more than two offenses, all that Auburn has done all year, Tony Franklin's stuff and combinations of the two."

If the uncertainty is an advantage for Auburn's offense, it's no surprise coach Tommy Tuberville and Franklin are eager to make the most of the mystery.



"It would be highly unlikely you could install the entire offense in nine days," Franklin said while refusing to disclose what percentage of his scheme has been taught.

"I'll tell you after Monday," he said.

Franklin may call a majority of plays, though he said, perhaps half-seriously, he may need someone to yell "Auburn! Auburn!" in his headset to remind him to use Auburn terminology instead of calling Troy's plays.

Tight ends coach Steve Ensminger, offensive line coach Hugh Nall, Tuberville and others may also contribute to the play-calling.

"We'll all have a hand in it," Franklin said, smiling. "There will be a lot of opinions. Somebody will make a final decision along the way."

Tuberville said there will be a mix of old and new.

"We're still going to run some things we ran from our previous offense," Tuberville said.

Said Koenning: "It's going to be a guessing game and we've got to have something called when they run it."

Cox is a three-year starter, but Burns is a better runner and may be the better fit for Franklin's offense. Cox should start, but Franklin seemed eager to give Clemson's defensive coaches one last reason for additional studying when he spoke of Burns' potential.

"If the quarterback can run, it would be a huge bonus," Franklin said. "Since he has the ability to do so, I would think this is something he should flourish in."

Clemson's defensive challenge is made more difficult by the losses of two of the team's top three tacklers to academic problems.

Outside linebackers Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie were declared academically ineligible earlier this month. Watkins led the team with 118 tackles. Billie was third with 79.

Another senior starter, offensive tackle Christian Capote, also was declared ineligible.

Freshman Scotty Cooper and sophomore Kavell Conner are expected to start at the two outside linebacker spots. The middle linebacker, Cortney Vincent, apparently will start despite a recent DUI arrest.