Why I’m having a hard time getting worked up about Auburn this season.

Don’t get me wrong – anybody with more than a passing interest in college football knows that VanGorder is a significant upgrade over Ted Roof.  And if there’s one thing Chizik’s done consistently well since his arrival is to make sure his program recruits.

But if you take a look at this post from Barrett Sallee at his new Bleacher Report gig, it’s pretty easy to see where things look a little dicey on the Plains.  Take as an example his observation about Kiehl Frazier:

Frazier attempted only 12 passes all season, and the only meaningful snaps he saw as a passer were on the road against Arkansas when the Tigers were trailing. Not exactly the best spot to succeed in. Simply put, Gus Malzahn didn’t put Frazier in the position to succeed, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he didn’t.

That reads like something you’d expect from somebody who’s watching stats more than on-the-field performance.  I don’t know if that’s actually the case with Sallee here, but I saw a lot of Frazier last year and his passing skills didn’t exactly impress, meaningful situations or otherwise.

And the Malzahn criticism is simply puzzling.  Whatever knocks Malzahn may deserve as a coordinator, failing to help a quarterback succeed isn’t one of them.  This is the guy who made a functional SEC quarterback out of Chris Todd, remember.  And he inherited Todd from the previous coaching regime at Auburn.  Frazier, however, was a kid Malzahn wanted badly in the program.  Given that none of the quarterback candidates could lock down the starting position over the course of last season, it’s hard to think that Malzahn didn’t invest some serious effort in making sure that Frazier had a fair shot.

So you’ll have to pardon me if I don’t take Sallee’s conclusion as gospel.

He threw for 8,229 yards and 107 touchdowns in three years as a starter in high school. Given Loeffler’s successful track record of developing quarterbacks, Frazier is a good bet to step up and take control of that coveted quarterback position.

Loeffler’s success came in developing quarterbacks in pro-style offenses at Michigan.  His brief, though loudly trumpeted, SEC pit stop with Florida didn’t exactly find him working any magic with Tebow.  And Frazier’s never played in a pro-style offense.  Let’s just say the jury is out on his role this season.

I have to admit I’m a little surprised by the confidence I’ve seen from many about Loeffler’s coaching skills being good enough to elevate Auburn’s offense.  He’s got some serious, gaping holes to patch, as Sallee’s piece indicates indirectly.  Aside from the uncertainty at quarterback, Loeffler has to find a replacement for Michael Dyer (McCalebb is basically allergic to running between the tackles) and develop some depth at wide receiver behind Emory Blake.  All that, plus install a new offensive scheme!  That’s a lot to put on one man’s plate.

And, ominously,  Matt Melton finds that last year’s numbers suggest Auburn may be looking at some regression this season.

… In the SEC, Auburn allowed 10 more offensive touchdowns (27) than they scored (17), yet still somehow managed to win half their league games! With Texas A&M joining the SEC West and Clemson on the non-conference schedule, the Tigers could miss the postseason altogether in 2012…

Sure, maybe it’s a statistical anomaly.  Maybe it was luck.  But another possibility is that Malzahn squeezed more out of that offense than he’s given credit for (what, you thought I was going to give Roof credit for that?).  If you’re going to talk about track records, Malzahn’s indicates that he’s going to be a tough act to replace.

To be fair, at the end Sallee backs off a little on the immediacy of Loeffler’s expected success.  But to label his post as a series of realistic expectations for Auburn this season… well, color me unconvinced.

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UPDATE:  Or not.

The coaches want Frazier to be the guy on the Plains, but nothing from his freshman season suggests that he can handle the responsibility.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Why I’m having a hard time getting worked up about Auburn this season.

  1. HamDawg11

    I have to believe Auburn will be improved defensively, but I don’t see their offense being anything to keep opposing DC’s up late at night. While there is some talent on that side of the ball, I have a hard time seeing them being more efficient than last year’s version without Dyer, Carr, etc….

  2. Slaw Dawg

    By “getting worked up,” Sen, I take it you mean “getting worried that they’re gonna be much better” as opposed to “wanting to lay them open like a rotten watermelon.” They could be stocked up with this year’s Pro Bowlers, they could be in such serious multiple probation/penalty/felony trouble that they field nothing but freshman sorority sisters, they could bring out 11 cuddly bunnies in orange and blue wool sweaters–I’d still want my guys to hang triple digits on them, trample them in the mud, hit them hard enough to put their mothers in the ER; if I were coaching, I’d leave my starters in from opening kick to closing gun, I’d demand Aaron Murray do for 4 quarters what he did last year for 1, I’d open my bank account to the D back who snags the most INTs, any D player who gives up a first down would be running up and down Sanford Stadium bleachers for 2 days straight and any who gives up a TD would be benched for the next game since his punishments would be too severe for him to move anyway.

    Worked up? Hell, it’s a beautiful March day, I have a new client, the birds are singing and see what just mentioning those people does to me?

    Gawd I hate Auburn.

  3. Jim

    We have won 5 of last 6 against them or something along those lines. Hope we can keep that up

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      And the one time they won, Auburn won the BCS National Championship. Ain’t THAT a bitch!

    • Nate Dawg

      Yup. 5 of last 6 and 7 of last 10.

    • Doug

      Over the past six years, we’ve beaten them by an average of two TDs, and that’s with their one win in 2010 factored in. Basically, without Cam Newton they ain’t done so hot against the Dawgs lately.

      • AthensHomerDawg

        and Cam ain’t comin’ back!

        • Normaltown Mike

          I thought Auburn was going to have some salary cap room this season with Dyer leaving?

      • Slaw Dawg

        I’ll take the wins of course, but I don’t know if it’s possible to score enough points on those guys to slake my desire for “reckonin.” Tho last year was close, I dream of doing to them what we did to UF in ’42 and ’68. Sweet, sweet stuff.

  4. Cojones

    Auburn is the same team now that they were the year before Cam. The best part of this year’s game is that we Conanize them in front of all their students and fans. They can do what they want on D, but the plethora of targets for Murray, the added confidence the veterans have and a good running game can approach last year, only moreso on the ground. And our D will have a field day. A couple of interceptions and fumble returns won’t hurt.

    Remember early in last yr’s game when the score was tied 7-7 and there wasn’t a soul on the UGA side who didn’t know that Murray was about to turn on and stuff’em. You could feel it in the stadium.

    I’m with Slaw Dawg. Their head hasn’t been pushed into the dirt enough for the fan, coach and referee dissing we received in Auburn from the D jerk/thug of the year. When you have both the O and the D remaining in a vengeful mood, it ain’t great for Auburn’s prospects. Couldn’t wait last year and can’t wait again this year.

  5. Hobnail_Boot

    Sallee is both an Auburn grad and season ticket holder. He is a fan first and a journalist second.

    Not a criticism, but something to keep in mind when reading him.

  6. Thanks for the link, Senator. I know and respect your work, but I can’t comprehend how you have seen enough of Frazier to make a judgement on him. Malzahn was a lot of things at Auburn, but a good OC in 2011 wasn’t one of them. Granted, some of that was due to the fact that there was a philosophy change on staff that forced Malzhan to slow things down, but that had nothing to do with the spots, or lack of spots, that he allowed Frazier to throw meaningful passes.

    Thanks for the link and thanks for the ongoing conversation.

    • Barrett, when did you see Frazier look good throwing the ball last season? I’m not saying his season (only 12 pass attempts) was a significant sample size, but I’m simply talking about looking comfortable passing. I never saw it.

      And keep in mind that neither of us saw what Malzahn saw in practice. As I said in my post, I have a hard time buying into Frazier not being given a chance by the coach who was clearly invested in his career. And you certainly can’t say that Malzahn wasn’t looking for some sort of answer at the QB position all season. It’s hard for me to accept that Gus had his mind made up about Frazier.

      As for Malzahn’s season, 2011 wasn’t his best, I agree. But he was clearly handicapped by (1) a head coach who made a tactical decision to protect Roof by slowing down the offense; (2) instability at the QB position; (3) a lack of depth at wide receiver, among other things. I’m not sure Loeffler has it any better than Gus.

      By the way, congrats on your move to BR. You and Felder have already made me break my vow of not reading at that site. ;)

  7. Barrett Sallee

    I’m not saying that he can or can’t handle it, all I’m saying is that last season isn’t anywhere close to the sample size needed to for an accurate judgement for people outside of the athletic complex. The only meaningful passes he made were on the road against Arkansas. You’re absolutely right, he didn’t look comfortable. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that he was so surprised tht Malzahn was actually letting him throw it. Malzahn wasn’t the be-all, end-all OC that a lot of people think he was.

    Thanks for the congrats. We know the rep, and we are happy that we are being trusted to fix it.

    • I’m not elevating GM to godhood status, but until last season, he was always able to fashion at least a functional college QB. I think that says a lot more about what he had to work with than about his ability as a coordinator. And if you’re an Auburn fan, that ought to be a little troubling.

      As for BR, I take it that means I won’t be seeing any “boobtastic” pieces from you two. Darn, I say. ;)