AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn has risen to one of the top offenses in the country, especially running the football. Kamryn Pettway has solidified himself as a likely 1,000-yard rusher, which will uphold an Auburn tradition since 2009. A team that ranked near the bottom of the country in negative plays is now toward the top of the charts in that department.
Much of that has to do with Tigers offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.
Lashlee took over Auburn play-calling responsibilities midway through the 2016 season, and it’s made an instant impact on the Tigers’ offensive success. It’s given Gus Malzahn an opportunity to step back and look at things from a different vantage point. It’s allowed Lashlee to show some creative genius.
Auburn handled Ole Miss on Saturday. Now, it’s time for Vanderbilt at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Here’s what Lashlee told the media Sunday with the recent victory and the upcoming contest both fresh on his mind.
- “We were pretty balanced,” Lashlee said. Remember, he doesn’t consider balanced to be a metric measured on number of carries versus passes. Instead, it’s based on sustaining success. “We were able to run when we needed to. We were able to pass when we needed to.”
- “I think 8 different guys caught a ball. 5 different guys carried it.”
- On handling adversity: “It’s huge. They’re 3-4. That’s the best 3-4 team you’ll ever see.”
- On Kamryn Pettway: “Tim (Horton) said, ‘He’s going to be just fine. He’s going to be really good.’ I don’t think Tim or any of us knew he’d go on this tear … Him and Kerryon have done a good job of brother-in-lawing it right now.”
- The running back success is particularly interesting considering the shaky offseason. Lashlee on the transition: “But yeah, there were times in the spring, when we didn’t really know what we had.”
- Sean White running the ball well too, Lashlee said. “It’s been huge. One of the biggest plays of the night was that third-and-13 scramble … He pulled one on a really bad look on a zone-read. He’s proven he’s athletic enough.”
- How do you handle this week with Tony Stevens and Eli Stove? “Eli finished the game. I’d think he’d be fine. With Tony, it was kind of like Kerryon a week ago … hopefully Tony will be better this week and be ready to go.”
- “We don’t direct snap to guys in motion.” Anytime that’s happened this season — as it did against Ole Miss — that “hasn’t been by design,” Lashlee said.
- Sean White, not just a runner. “He’s been extremely efficient from 20 yards and in, pretty much deadly accurate. He’s making good decisions with the football. One thing we have to improve on is hitting those vertical shots. I think that’s pretty obvious at this point.”
- At wide receiver, Lashlee said, “I don’t know if we have a go-to guy. We don’t have a bunch of superstars out there … That’s why we had 8 different guys catch a ball last night.”
- On Eli Stove: “Well, he can run … He’s peaking this season as a freshman at the right time … He’s doing a lot of good things. He’ll continue to help us down the stretch.”
- “Darius (Slayton) has been one of our more steady guys. … He’s one of those guys that’s very dependable. He’s been very steady for us.”
- On Vanderbilt: “They won at Georgia. That catches your eye right there. … (Vanderbilt linebacker Zach) Cunningham, I actually recruited him to Arkansas State … I know for a fact he’s a stud. It’ll be a pretty good challenge for us,” Lashlee said.
- Lashlee going on a “Sean White is the man” rant. References being the last Elite 11 quarterback invited in his year. References being an Under Armour All-America Game backup plan and winning MVP. “He’s a gamer.”
- “We probably executed worse last night than we did against Arkansas and Mississippi State. Ole Miss deserves a lot of credit for that.”
- How nice was it having Kerryon Johnson back healthy? “It was really good. He may not get the credit, because you look at the stat line last night (11 carries, 42 yards). But he had two touchdown runs in the red zone last night. He had the big wheel route on third down.”