This week, SEC Country is counting down the “7 from ’17” for the 2017 Auburn football season — seven picks in seven categories from the Tigers’ 10-win campaign. Let’s wrap up with a category each from offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. First, it’s Lindsey.
Auburn unlocked a new level on offense in 2017 with the addition of new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. The Tigers threw for more yards per game than they ran it, and Lindsey dialed up several memorable play calls for huge gains all season long.
Whether they were tweaks off of Gus Malzahn’s long-used wildcat or “fire alarm” formations or simply new play calls in this offense, Lindsey had an impressive play-calling debut on the Plains in 2017.
Here are the picks for his top seven offensive play calls from his first season as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator.
7. Jarrett Stidham’s 47-yard touchdown pass to Will Hastings vs. Mississippi State
Auburn ran a couple of plays like this in 2017, using Will Hastings’ elite agility and speed to its full advantage. One of the biggest differences in Auburn’s offensive game from Rhett Lashlee to Lindsey is the use of different types of routes and combinations. The double move from Hastings, a staple of Air Raid offenses, sprung him free for long touchdowns against both Mississippi State and LSU. Defenders who drew Hastings in coverage always had to be aware of the big play after this long touchdown in September.
6. Jarrett Stidham’s 49-yard pass to Darius Slayton vs. Mississippi State
This one didn’t go for a touchdown, but it was an early-season look at how Lindsey would do things differently with gadget plays and Stidham’s arm. Auburn faced a third-and-2 early against Mississippi State and jumped into the wildcat formation. Johnson gave the ball to a sweeping Ryan Davis, who then tossed it back to a reversing Stidham. Mississippi State’s defense wasn’t expecting a pass out of a short-yardage wildcat situation, so Stidham had time to rifle it downfield to Slayton for a huge gain.
5. Jarrett Stidham’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Davis vs. Georgia (regular season)
For an offense that didn’t adjust much in some of its early season losses, Auburn showed it learned its lessons in the big wins toward the end of the year. In the third quarter against Georgia, Auburn punched in a touchdown with a screen pass to Davis. Earlier in the game, Georgia sent an overload blitz, and Auburn had no chance for a positive play. This time, when Georgia showed it again, Auburn went right into the perfect play call against it — a screen where the blitzers had just left.
4. Ryan Davis’ 62-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton vs. Arkansas
Auburn didn’t need a trick play call to move the ball against Arkansas, but Lindsey broke one out anyway in the third quarter in Fayetteville. Auburn executed a buck sweep with a reverse to Davis, who looked destined to run the ball. But Davis, a former high school quarterback, smoothly raised his arm and fired a pass downfield to Slayton, who was behind everybody in the Arkansas secondary. Auburn played off that creativity in this set for the rest of the season.
3. Jarrett Stidham’s 42-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton vs. Georgia (regular season)
This was a well-designed play at the perfect time for Auburn. The Tigers were up 9-7 against Georgia but couldn’t pull away from their bitter rivals. That changed when Stidham lofted a 42-yard pass that was caught perfectly in traffic by Slayton. The individual efforts here are amazing, but how the play worked was just as impressive. Auburn faked one of its many quick screens to Davis at the bottom — and Malzahn made a nice decoy for the play with his yelling — while the two receivers to the other side ran deep routes. One cleared out for the other, and Stidham had room to drop it in.
2. Jarrett Stidham’s 55-yard touchdown pass to Kerryon Johnson vs. Georgia (regular season)
Auburn was already routing Georgia at home when Lindsey pulled off a brand-new extension to its normal sweep-motion set out of the quick “fire alarm” huddle. Instead of handing it off to the sweep man or throwing it to the play side of the field, Auburn waited until Johnson leaked out for a screen on the other side. When Stidham got it to him, Johnson had nothing but green grass and a convoy of Auburn blockers ahead. This long touchdown reception was an exclamation point on the game and a beautiful play call from Lindsey.
1. Kerryon Johnson’s 3-yard jump pass touchdown to Nate Craig-Myers vs. Alabama
For the first 11 games of the season, Auburn hadn’t done much of anything in the wildcat formation except for straight runs with Johnson. But in the Iron Bowl, Lindsey busted out a wrinkle that gave the Tigers one of their easiest touchdowns in recent rivalry history. Johnson faked a run up the gut on third-and-2 from the 3-yard line before hopping up and tossing a pass to a wide-open Nate Craig-Myers. From a strategic and stakes perspective, this play call from Lindsey was pure money.