Monday, April 20, 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Offensive Answers After A-Day

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Well, A-Day 2015 is in the books. Did you go? Did you have a great time? We did! Read all about it!

A-Day 2015 Adventures

In case you missed it, I had 5 questions heading into the spring. Well, I have a lot more than that, but I had 5 specific questions on the offense. Go read them.

Best5Zach's Best 5 Offensive Questions Heading Into Spring

Now, I will have a lot more to say on the subject of A-Day, so stay tuned. For right now, let's talk about these questions. 

The Jeremy Johnson Era

Well, the hype-inning has begun. Is it deserved? Yes. And no. Let me explain. 

There is little doubt that Johnson may be the finest specimen of pocket passer Auburn has had in a generation. Scratching your head? Thinking of a certain guy who threw for 2,800 yards? Cam's legacy of passing stats are going to be hard to overcome, but recognize that Cam had little to no short game. He ran it for over 1,400 yards in 2010. And, when he didn't, he handed it off to Dyer or he threw a bomb to a usually open receiver. There was little in the middle. Why? Opposing defenses were terrified of him and stacked the box. His rudimentary play fake left one-on-one coverage, typically a defender with his back turned, against Darvin Adams, one of the better deep-ball guys we have seen. Because of this, Cam's completion percentage was unusually high, as was his yards per completion. Lost in the mix are the yards per attempt, which was also high. Why the differentiation? Receivers weren't catching short passes and running with Cam. 

But that doesn't stop the hype. Yet, I caution everyone on penciling him as a finalist OR for putting him down as a 3,000 yard passer. Yet. 

Though most of everything you read will lead you to believe that Johnson was nearly perfect, he was far from it. Going 14-22 for for 252 and 2 TDs/0 INTs appears solid, but I have cause for caution. That completion ratio was low. It was more of what we would expect from a run-first threat like Marshall, or a standard pocket passes. Not from a Heisman contender. And not against the #2 defense who was really using a fill-in secondary at points. Let's recall that Both starting corners were out, including a 2nd team All-SEC Jones. 

Why the low completion? 

Johnson targeted Duke Williams frequently.....even forcefully.  After a first completion, Johnson was locked on Duke leading to a high throw on the sidelines that Duke couldn't corral. He threw a deep one into double coverage and threw it behind. He then missed Duke on a post throw, the ball again being short and slightly behind a relatively open Williams. Why was he off on a throw that we know he can make?

I found myself amazed that a guy of Johnson's size, knowing that the pass rushers couldn't hit him, was throwing off his back foot. That particular play was a microcosm of many throws throughout that day where Johnson made a forced throw which didn't snap out of his hand and go exactly where he wanted. 

But, after the jitters wore off, Johnson was on point. Case in point? The 65 yard rope to Ricardo Louis. 

What I was REALLY happy with, was that Johnson began to really run the offense and not force the ball to Williams, which led to some gems. In particular, a gorgeous sideline throw and catch to Chandler Cox. Then, a nice TD toss to the Offensive MVP, Myron Burton, who had quite the coming out party.

That leads nicely into the next point. 

The Development of Receivers OUTSIDE of Duke

Burton WHO? Be honest, who thought they would see this stat? 
  • Myron Burton: 7 catches, 124 yards, 1 TD
Not me. During the National Signing Day week, I wrote about Auburn's need for another game-breaking WR and how I thought we might have one, specifically, a guy named Slayton, who is yet to make it on campus. But, we needed another possession receiver a la Bray. Louis did catch 3 passes, including the 65 yard bomb. But, he continues to look like a homerun threat as a deep ball and speed sweep guy.  Ray and  Davis were targeted usual. Truitt, a guy the coaches have talked a lot about, was held out as was Tony Stevens. 

Instead of the names we have seen on the field, the redshirt freshman exploded on the field. Outside of some talk about his preparation for the Outback Bowl, no one knew who this guy was. The 3-Star 6'1" 200 pounder gave coaches a lot to think about. He did everything right on Saturday. He took short passes in traffic and took his licks. He got wide open on his TD catch. He fought for an under-thrown ball on the 5 yard line. 

I leave you with this parting thought, regarding the topic of this point: We all assumed that Duke would have developed his skills outside of catching the ball to an NFL level. After all, I was glad to see him come back because I thought he needed work. You can read my thoughts on the subject below. 

And yet, I left A-Day scratching my head about Duke's performance. Go watch Roc Thomas' TD run. Duke made ZERO effort to seal the edge. Had Johnson not gotten out there to block, that play never would have happened. After watching other plays and focusing on Duke, I could tell whether it was a run or pass play by his demeanor. 

Who is Next at Tight End
Laye took all the snaps that I could see. Yet, not a pass was thrown to him. No surprise there. I really want to see the tight end matchup featured more. But, alas, I'm not the coach. 

Next at Center
Both centers played well. While Golson looks to be a clear number 1, Dampeer played against better competition and didn't seem to have any real issues. While Dampeer has been in the system longer, Golson has the more talent of the 2. The only hangup we have on Golson is his overall size. For once, being bigger isn't always better. However, I didn't see ANY issues with him moving around and making the blocks. Auburn is in fine shape, though I thought we might not have a real replacement for Dismukes. I do think they need someone for the future, which I wrote about below.

Will Auburn Copy Bama's RB System
If they are, they didn't show it Saturday. I don't recall seeing 2 backs in the game at the same time, unless you count Cox or Pettway. Where Malzahn has used a back in the pass for a tunnel screen, we saw WRs like Davis. Much more on the subject, though. 

Stay tuned. And, as always, let's hear your comments.