Auburn Football: A Statsheet’s Worth a Thousand Words


Saturday night’s Auburn-Clemson game in the Georgia Dome was a tale of twos; two tigers, two halves, two QBs and two new defensive coordinators. There were a great amount of explosive plays on both sides, but the man under center was what made the difference offensively. When your QB holds all of your single season passing records, that’s a good thing. When your QB is a true sophomore making his first career start, not so much. There are plenty of numbers that can tell you how the game was won.

Clemson Offense

Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

Last year, Auburn fans were told they would be playing against Gus Malzahn’s offense, their own offense. That was incorrect; the offense they played was better. This year was more of the same. Chad Morris is more committed to the hurry up than Gus Malzahn was outside of his first five games in 2009. Clemson runs an offense that requires a set of personnel they can put in the game that won’t need to sub out during the drive. Clemson came out with their scripted plays and ran very unfamiliar sets, such as multiple TEs or a FB lead blocker. After their first drive stalled they started running their base personnel, 1 TE 3 WRs. Clemson ran 88 plays from scrimmage (That’s a lot) and of those 88 plays, 70 of them were in a 1 TE 3 WR personnel with a pistol formation set. They ran three different formations usually dictated by the alignment of the TE, Brandon Ford. He was either flanked out wide, flexed as a FB or on the line of scrimmage like a traditional TE. Sticking with that personnel allowed them to run a hurry up offense and eventually drain Auburn’s defense. Clemson also did a great job keeping Auburn off balance, running 46 pass plays and 42 run plays. Clemson’s red zone offense was also potent despite settling for FGs on two occasions, running 13 plays for 41 yards, over 3 yards per play.

Auburn Defense
Auburn kept one of the most explosive offenses to 26 points, so it’s hard to be TOO worried about the future on that side of the ball. The problems may have resulted from a lack of aggression in the back seven.  Of Clemson’s 88 offensive plays, Auburn only put a safety in the box 22 times, a perfect 25%. Even more surprising, auburn only blitzed on 15 of the plays, most of them being zone blitzes that dropped a defensive lineman in coverage. The rest of the time Auburn ran their base defense, usually nickel with either Chris Davis or Jon Mincy playing in the slot. Auburn’s nickel was the response to Clemson’s 1 TE 3 WR pistol set. Clemson’s lack of formation versatility made aligning before the play easier, but there were other glaring issues. There were a total of 18 missed tackles where a defender had a great shot at taking down the ball carrier, ten in the first half (seven on Ellington’s two long runs) and 8 in the second half. Of those 18, five were by Daren Bates. The biggest bright spot on defense would probably be the pressure by the defensive line, especially with a four-man front. There were a total of 13 QB pressures and four sacks. Lemonier had two sacks and six pressures by himself despite playing most of the game banged up.

Auburn Offense
Auburn had seven new starters on offense, including the QB, which leads to a decent amount of optimism despite the loss. The offensive line is miles ahead of where it was last year and twice as talented, even playing with the backup center. The most important new starter though, has to be Jay Prosch. On I formation plays where the runningback ran directly behind Jay Prosch, Auburn gained 74 yards on 11 carries. That is almost seven yards per carry. On Auburn’s other 26 carries, they totaled 106 yards, only four yards per carry. There were a few plays where the RB wrongly cut into a hole that wasn’t being blocked by Prosch and probably gained MUCH less yards than he would have if he followed Prosch. In the passing game, Kiehl Frazier was a picture of inconsistency. Although, of his 27 pass attempts, 17 were 10+ yards down the field and that makes it difficult to gauge where his accuracy is. On those passes he was 6/17 for 167 yards with a TD and an INT (28 yards per completion). There were only two plays where he really missed a receiver. The concerning stat may be that he was only 5-10 on passes under 10 yards including two incomplete screen passes. I was expecting Coach Loeffler to start out Kiehl with some play action and short passes, which he did, but went away from it far too quickly. Three of Kiehl’s passes under 10 yards were on the first two drives. The biggest concern on offense though has to be the red zone execution. Auburn had three possessions in the red zone, which resulted it nine plays for a total of NEGATIVE three yards (!). Not surprisingly, they kicked three field goals. Auburn’s formational output grade out like this: when they were in the shotgun they had 29 plays for 122 yards (4.2 ypp), when they were under center with no FB they had 10 plays for 55 yards (5.5 ypp) and when they ran the I-formation they had 21 plays for 173 yards (8.2 ypp).

 Individual Scoutin

There were two players that I watched every play and graded out using a negative/positive system. Every play they received a negative or positive grade. I scouted one on offense and one on defense.

 Greg Robinson
Auburn fans have been hearing the hype around Greg Robinson for a full year now and now it’s easy to see why. On a total of 64 offensive plays, Robinson received a positive grade on 59 of them, including only one negative play in the first half (The hail mary on the last play). That totals out to an outstanding 92% grade. Greg Robinson is a flat out monster in the running game. He was matched up on Corey Crawford on almost every play, a 6’5” 280 lb DE. Robinson consistently got his pad level underneath Crawford and drove him completely out of a number of plays, including a devastating pancake block on the first play. He also does an amazing job of getting to the second level and locking onto LBs. It’s no surprise Auburn had their greatest success running the ball behind Robinson and Prosch. As a pass blocker, Robinson does a great job of locking with his hands and using his base as a wall that Corey Crawford could not get through. The only time he struggled in pass protection was when Clemson brought Vic Beasley, a much smaller speed rusher, into the game. Robinson had a tough time using his feet to get wider than Beasley’s rush, giving up a sack on the last drive. If last night’s game is any indication, Auburn has their blindside tackle for the next 2-3 years.
Jake Holland

Jake Holland showed a lot of improvement from his early 2011 performances, but still had some familiar struggles grading out positively on 60 out of 80 plays, a 75% positive grade. In the running game, he did a great job of aligning correctly as he almost always had A gap responsibility. I only noticed 2-3 plays where he took a poor angle on the ball carrier. The main problem I saw was that, as a LB with average athletic ability, he has a hard time knowing where the blocks are coming from. Constantly getting blocked from his blind side and getting sealed off. Although, it was extremely impressive that he had double digit tackles as offensive lineman were constantly blocking him. The interior defensive line did a poor job keeping Clemson from getting to the second level. Jeff Whitaker in particular was constantly being washed out which allowed pulling guards to eat Holland alive. I only saw one missed tackle by Holland, which unfortunately happened to go for a 68 yard gain. In pass defense, Holland did a great job of knowing his assignment and getting there quickly. Never allowing any big gains down the field. Overall Holland looked much more aggressive, especially in his tackling style (tattooing Ellington in the hole on one particular play) and was consistently running across the field and finishing plays. Hopefully he continues progressing throughout the season.

Follow Mr. Lee on Twitter for more updates.