AUBURN, Ala. — After two weeks of preseason practice, Auburn’s offense remains a bit of a puzzle. Gus Malzahn has yet to decide on a starting quarterback and each offensive unit still has some moving parts. But the task of putting all the pieces together? That shouldn’t be a problem for the Tigers.
Despite the heated position battles that have unfolded throughout fall camp, each offensive group kept their close-knit relationships intact.
“At the end of the day, I like the chemistry of our offense, I like the chemistry of our team,” offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “It’s just got a good feel to it. How that translates into wins and losses, you never know. But you’ve got a lot of close games in our league. Every year that’s the case. And when there’s a tight-knit group of guys and the leadership comes from the players, a lot of times that helps you in those tight games at the end.”
Auburn’s three quarterbacks — senior Jeremy Johnson, Sean White and John Franklin III — have competed for the starting job since the spring. Gus Malzahn and Lashlee have intentionally put the QBs in competitive situations in order to evaluate their eventual leader, and the contenders have managed to get along regardless.
“These guys, the one thing they have done, regardless of how the outcome is, they’re close,” Lashlee said. “They get along good. I’ve always been fortunate to have guys that get along in that room. It’s harder when you’re in a competitive situation to get along with everybody and pull for everybody but at the end of the day when we make decisions that’s going to hold a lot of value with our team and how the team responds to the decisions. I’ve been proud of the guys for that.”
Auburn is expected to name a starter soon and whoever does hear their name called will have another advantage: the backing of a close group of wide receivers.
“This summer we worked a lot with all those guys,” sophomore wide receiver Stanton Truitt said. “We haven’t questioned each other. Every day we were out there working hard. Anybody that gets the job deserves it. That’s how we feel. We’re behind each of those guys that’s competing right now. We’re ready to go.”
Senior receivers Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens have helped several talented newcomers acclimate to their wide receiver group. Even those additions have progressed quickly.
“Naturally, with any team, it’s going to take a while to develop chemistry,” WR Darius Slayton said. “But I feel like, even though we’ve got a lot of moving parts, we’re still moving very fluidly.”
Auburn’s offensive line positions, for the most part, were established early in fall camp. Since then the group has focused on building their cohesion.
“This is a really experienced group and I think that’s going to lend (itself) well to the season,” senior tackle Robert Leff said. “I really like the chemistry that we have together. All of us have been working together for a while. We don’t really have any newcomers to the line. I really like the way (and) the shape that our line is in.”
Auburn’s running back group, which was faced with the unexpected dismissal of Jovon Robinson on the first day of fall camp, has also grown tighter this fall. The running backs will be expected to contribute immediately, but they have full faith in each other.
“I believe that I can be 1,000-yard rusher, I believe that Pettway can be a thousand yard rusher, I believe chandler, Malik, Kam martin, I believe that all of us can do it,” sophomore RB Kerryon Johnson said. “and that’s what we’re going to do. Talk is cheap. Now we have to go out and prove it.”
Auburn faces a tough challenge opening against Clemson on Sept. 3., but with two weeks left to prepare, their relationships will only help them
“At the end of the day, offensively, we’ve got to be a good team offense,” Lashlee said. “We’ve got to have the urgency, because in two weeks, roughly, we play one of the better teams in the whole country and one of the best defenses from last year. But those guys, I feel like they believe in each other and they’re going to fight hard for each other.”