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Snap Tracker: Offense vs Tulane

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A look at snaps played by Auburn’s offense

NCAA Football: Tulane at Auburn Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, my children and my place of work do not seem to respect my need to rewatch a college football game in order to write down jersey numbers. Which is why this article is coming out late on a Thursday afternoon.

But track them I did anyway! We looked at the defensive side of the ball on Tuesday, today we take a look at the offense. As always, don’t take these numbers as gospel but instead a general idea of how much usage certain players are getting or not getting.

On to the snaps!

Quarterback

NCAA Football: Tulane at Auburn Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports
  • #10 Bo Nix - 73 snaps
  • #1 Joey Gatewood - 9 snaps

Yay Joey!

Auburn put together a game ending 14 play 85 yard drive that ate up the remaining 8:15 of game clock to finish off the Green Wave. Midway through that drive, Malzahn inserted the redshirt freshman and he immediately wow’d.

Of course he missed the read on the very next play but whatever! It was nice to see Joey get some snaps this past Saturday. Auburn again had a drive stall out in the redzone. I really think Malzahn needs to take a hard look at inserting Gatewood when Auburn’s inside the 10 unless the Tigers are able to use pace. I should also note, Gatewood was going to come in on 3rd & short on Auburn’s opening drive but action was stopped (again) due to the game clock issues and Malzahn elected to not send him back out when play resumed.

As for Nix, I thought he did a much better job of standing into the pocket and getting the ball out at the top of his drop. However, he was far from perfect. Accuracy has been spotty at times early this season (missed a HUGE play to Hastings to end the half) and I think he’s making some decisions pre-snap on where he wants to go with the ball instead of working through his progressions. Here’s a great example.

Now I will admit the view is limited so maybe I am missing a defender over the top but if you look at the bottom of this play, Cannella sells like he’s blocking before releasing up the seam. There’s one deep safety who is occupied by Hastings (the safety is the guy that commits the targeting foul) while both DBs to the near side stay on Stove. That would leave only the dropping linebacker as a threat. Bo has plenty of time on this play too. He just needed to work through his progression. If he does, Auburn might have a touchdown. At worst, they complete an explosive play.

It’s not a huge surprise that a true freshman QB is having trouble seeing the field. I fully expect that to improve as the season goes on and he gets more comfortable. His biggest issues right now are an inconsistent running game and an injured wide receiver corps. But that’s why it’s even more important his accuracy and decision making improve. Auburn needs him to perform at a high level for this offense to succeed against better defenses. Saturday will hopefully give him a chance to go out, have an efficient day and build some more confidence before the big trip west to College Station.

Running Back

Tulane v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images
  • #9 Kam Martin - 45 snaps
  • #28 JaTarvious Whitlow - 37 snaps
  • #8 Shaun Shivers - 8 snaps
  • #32 Malik Miller - 3 snaps
  • #22 Harold Joiner - 1 snap

After sparking Auburn’s incredible comeback Week 1, I thought Boobee Whitlow played his worst game as an Auburn Tiger Week 2. Yes he had 94 yards and a score but he put the ball on the ground three times (the last one being one of the worst fumbles I have ever seen from an Auburn running back) and contributed just as much to Auburn’s rushing struggles as Auburn’s offensive line. Here’s an example.

This was the 2nd play of the game. Auburn is running Inside Zone out of 11 personnel. Boobee’s aiming point is supposed to be the backside of Kaleb Kim’s hip. Kim and Mike Horton actually get great movement on this play with their double team driving that massive nose tackle three yards off the ball. That allows Horton to slide off and take the linebacker. If Whitlow runs through Kim’s backside this play goes for at least a first down, maybe more if he can run through some arm tackles. Instead, Boobee elects to cut this backside where Tulane’s “Joker” is waiting having already cast aside Spencer Nigh along with Tulane’s weakside linebacker who is left unblocked. The result is a minimal gain.

Auburn’s offensive line deserves the heat it’s getting from the fanbase for the struggles to get a consistent rushing attack going but they aren’t the sole cause. Whitlow has to get better at reading his blocking, protecting the football and understanding that sometimes you just have to take what’s there instead of trying to create something out of nothing. Part of the benefit of using more gap run plays (Counter, Buck Sweep, Power) instead of zone concepts is that Whitlow doesn’t have to pick the hole, he just follows his blocking to the prescribed gap.

On rewatch, I do have to give the coaching staff a little more credit for trying to use a real RB rotation. It might not be the rotation we all want but Kam Martin is seeing plenty of work early. He’s just not been super effective running the football.

Auburn really needs DJ Williams to get healthy because it appears Malzahn does not trust either Shaun Shivers or Harold Joiner to be an every down back. Williams reportedly suffered a hip injury last week which is why he didn’t play this past weekend. Here’s to hoping he’s healthy for Saturday.

H-Back/Tight End

Tulane v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images
  • #99 Spencer Nigh - 38 snaps
  • #47 John Samuel Shenker - 24 snaps
  • #42 Jay Jay Wilson - 13 snaps

Wilson saw more action this past weekend and Auburn even tried to sneak him into the flat inside the redzone for a touchdown. Both Nigh and Shenker have been solid to start the season though I thought Nigh was not as effective against Tulane as he was against Oregon. It will be interesting to see if Wilson’s snap count will continue to grow as the season goes on or will Nigh/Shenker continue to see the lion’s share of the work.

Wide Receiver

Tulane v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images
  • #80 Sal Cannella - 66 snaps
  • #17 Marquis McClain - 46 snaps
  • #12 Eli Stove - 44 snaps
  • #33 Will Hastings - 30 snaps
  • #18 Seth Williams - 20 snaps
  • #19 Matthew Hill - 20 snaps
  • #5 Anthony Schwartz - 11 snaps
  • #35 James Owens Moss - 2 snaps

Injuries have been a major issue for Auburn so far this season specifically at wide receiver. Anthony Schwartz is battling back from a broken hand, Eli Stove still only considers himself 90% recovered from his major knee injury last year, Will Hastings has taken two head shots in the first two weeks, both of Auburn’s freshman WRs have missed significant time with injuries, Shedrick Jackson did not play Saturday because he was “banged up” and now Seth Williams looks to be out for a number of weeks with a shoulder injury.

It’s hard to be a freshman QB in the SEC. It’s even harder when all your wide receivers are hurt... Thankfully, Schwartz appears to be getting closer to full speed. The Tigers inexplicably threw him a deep ball which he obviously dropped due to his non functioning right hand but it was good to see him getting behind the defense again. Getting him back will be huge for this offensive attack.

For Marquis McClain and Matthew Hill this Saturday is a huge opportunity. Auburn desperately needs someone else to step up and prove they can make plays in the passing game. Right now, Nix is relying heavily on Will Hastings (targeted 12 times on his 30 snaps) for big plays and Eli Stove in the short passing game. Schwartz coming back should give Auburn a deep threat but having either step up and prove they too can scare defenses could really open up this offense.

Offensive Line

NCAA Football: Tulane at Auburn Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports
  • #76 Prince Tega Wanogho - 82 snaps
  • #77 Marquel Harrell - 82 snaps
  • #54 Kaleb Kim - 82 snaps
  • #64 Mike Horton - 82 snaps
  • #71 Jack Driscoll - 82 snaps

I failed to include the offensive line last week which actually did have a few interesting notes, specifically Tashawn Manning coming in on that heavy set for Joey Gatewood’s touchdown. However, against Tulane, Auburn stuck with the same five all game without any special looks (at least any that I noticed). We all know this group must get better and more consistent but I expect them to have a good day Saturday against an overmatched opponent. I am excited to see what the #2 squad can do when they hopefully get into the game in the 2nd half.

War Eagle!