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Snap Tracker: Offense vs Kent State

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#ForTheReCord

NCAA Football: Kent State at Auburn Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn did what it should do to a bad defense. Score early and often.

You can’t learn a ton from a game like that outside of “oh crap I think we might actually be bad” but thankfully that was not the case Saturday night. Auburn dropped 55 points and 600+ yards on the poor Golden Flashes allowing most every offensive player on the roster a chance to see some action.

Here’s a look at who all played this past weekend on the offensive side of the ball.

Quarterback

NCAA Football: Kent State at Auburn Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports
  • #10 Bo Nix - 60 snaps
  • #1 Joey Gatewood - 19 snaps
  • #24 Cord Sandberg - 3 snaps

It’s usually a good day when all three of your scholarship QBs get to see action (still pretending 2016 Clemson game doesn’t exist).

Bo Nix completed greater than 50% of this passes for the first time in his Auburn career though he was far from perfect. Two bad misses stand out as do a couple of completions that took more effort than should be necessary for the WR to haul the pass in. Right now, Bo’s main problem with accuracy is his footwork. I thought he showed better pocket awareness but now it’s about finishing the play. The misfire to Jay Jay Wilson is a great example.

Nix stands in the pocket, keeps his eyes on Hastings which draws the safety and doesn’t bail when a late blitzer breaks free. All of those are good things. But look at his feet just before the release. Nix kinda bunny hops into the throw which results in this pass sailing high. I noticed him do something similar when he overshot Eli Stove earlier in the game.

Again, I love the way he navigates the pocket and steps up away from the pressure to deliver this ball. But again, he doesn’t set his feet which results in an unnecessary off balanced throw that is a couple yards too far for his target to reach.

When Nix is in rhythm and delivering with his back foot planted, he’s accurate. Something he showed when converting on a 3rd down play in the 2nd half to Anthony Schwartz (heck of a catch).

We’ve seen the flashes of ability. This past weekend we got to see what he can do in the run game and how it opens up opportunities for Auburn’s running backs. But if Auburn wants to win some big games this year, they are going to need Nix to be more accurate which means he’s gotta cut out the hopping and do a better job of staying balanced when delivering from the pocket. I can only believe that the more live reps he gets, the more he will improve. This Saturday will be a major test.

As for Joey, he once again was asked to eat time off the clock by pounding the football which he did durn well. I completely agree with those that believe Joey needs a bigger role in this offense. He’s just too talented not to use especially inside the redzone. However, I would caution those who think maybe there needs to be a change at who is starting to tap the breaks a bit. Joey has basically out-athleted (don’t think this is a word) two tired G5 defenses when he has entered the game. Half the time it doesn’t even look like he’s reading the defense, just pulling the ball and making a play.

Both Nix and Gatewood are fantastic football players who will need to make big plays for Auburn to win big games this fall. I think if you can’t run pace inside the redzone then you bring Joey in and let him power the ball into the endzone while also still providing a legit throwing threat. I still believe though that Nix is the better QB and that Malzahn made the right decision on naming him the starter.

It’s a good problem to have though. Two talented, young QBs who can help you win games. Now it’s about putting them both in the best position to make use of their individual gifts.

Running Back

NCAA Football: Kent State at Auburn Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports
  • #28 JaTarvious Whitlow - 29 snaps
  • #9 Kam Martin - 15 snaps
  • #8 Shaun Shivers - 14 snaps
  • #22 Harold Joiner - 13 snaps
  • #32 Malik Miller - 9 snaps

Everybody ate Saturday night against the Golden Flashes. Both Whitlow and Shivers crossed the century mark while Martin averaged a whopping 10.1 yards per carry including a nice 35 yard scamper to the endzone in the 1st quarter.

My biggest takeaway watching this group is that with Auburn leaning more heavily on gap schemes, I really think the Tigers need to take a long hard look at getting Shivers more touches moving forward. Both Whitlow and Martin had some inexplicable moments where instead of following their blockers to daylight they instead tried to cutback resulting in them running into the teeth of the defense instead of away from it.

Shivers, on the other hand, consistently stayed true to the play call and hit the hole full speed. His burst is a different level than either Whitlow or Martin so when a lane opens up it goes for some big chunk yardage.

I don’t believe any of the threesome of Whitlow, Martin and Shivers are true bellcow backs capable of shouldering a 25+ carry load through the grind of an SEC schedule. However, all three are talented backs with skillsets that can lead to success in Auburn’s rushing attack if deployed properly. I know we have harped on it but the Tigers need to continue to lean towards using more of a timeshare in the backfield. Boobee is the #1 guy but he’s not so far ahead of the other two to eat up the lion’s share of the work during non garbage time.

Just one pretend expert’s opinion...

H-Back/Tight End

  • #99 Spencer Nigh - 37 snaps
  • #42 Jay Jay Wilson - 32 snaps
  • #47 John Samuel Shenker - 26 snaps

Wilson’s use in the offense continues to grow though a lot of his snaps Saturday came in the 4th quarter as Auburn ate clock. Still, when the Tigers want to go four wide right now in a 2 minute situation, he’s the guy seeing the snaps. If Nix had been more accurate he might have his first career receiving touchdown.

What really jumped out rewatching the offense is how often Auburn shifted Shenker, Wilson and Nigh out wide. Multiple times during the game they were lined up as true wide receivers. Shenker especially has shown the ability to play anywhere on the field. It will be interesting to see what looks Auburn gives A&M with this trio this Saturday.

Wide Receiver

NCAA Football: Kent State at Auburn Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports
  • #80 Sal Cannella - 44 snaps
  • #19 Matthew Hill - 44 snaps
  • #12 Eli Stove - 32 snaps
  • #33 Will Hastings - 28 snaps
  • #17 Marquis McClain - 24 snaps
  • #14 Zach Farrar - 23 snaps
  • #5 Anthony Schwartz - 12 snaps
  • #35 James Owens Moss - 1 snap

If you would have told me before the season that Sal Cannella would see the most snaps among Auburn’s wide receiver corps I would have laughed but here we are... To his credit, Sal has been solid in 2019. He made an outstanding adjustment on a poorly thrown ball from Nix to setup an eventual TD and continues to be a decent enough blocker on the outside. He actually leads all receivers in yards per catch right now at 19.8.

Hill saw a ton of snaps but didn’t get any touches. I was a little surprised they didn’t call something specifically to give him an opportunity to make a play with the ball in his hands but it’s a positive sign he got this much work. There were a handful of times he was the passing option on an RPO but the read ended up being a give. He probably also would have walked in on one of Joey’s TDs if he had been given the ball but instead threw a nice block to ensure Gatewood found the endzone.

Offensive Line

NCAA Football: Kent State at Auburn Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports
  • #66 Bailey Sharp - 66 snaps
  • #54 Kaleb Kim - 60 snaps
  • #64 Mike Horton - 60 snaps
  • #71 Jack Driscoll - 60 snaps
  • #77 Marquel Harrell - 60 snaps
  • #56 Tashawn Manning - 18 snaps
  • #50 Jalil Irvin - 18 snaps
  • #52 Nick Brahms - 18 snaps
  • #59 Brodarious Hamm - 18 snaps
  • #65 Alec Jackson - 12 snaps

It was a bit of a surprise to hear an hour before the game that Prince Tega Wanogho would not be starting Saturday night. There had been reports that he’d been battling some knee issues since fall camp but had seemed alright through first the two weeks. Bailey Sharp, however, was outstanding in his stead. I didn’t notice any major busts when rewatching the game and he consistently got good movement on the left side of the ball. It’s an absolute shame he won’t be available for much of the season now. Not only because he was a very viable backup offensive tackle but also because he’s a kid that has stuck around for five years and made the most of his opportunity when finally given the chance. If Tega can’t go or another injury pops up at either OT spots, Auburn is going to be in a world of hurt moving forward....

Overall, I thought Auburn’s offensive line had a good game. That got much more movement up front which is to be expected and no major breakdowns in pass protection. Both sacks were the result of failures by the running back to properly pick up a rusher. There was a much heavier use of Power, GT Counter and Buck Sweep Saturday night as this group continues to show they are better when pulling than driving off the ball.

Finally, we got a chance to see the 2nd team in action. Sharp played one series with this group before Alec Jackson came into for the final reps. I liked what I saw from this group. There’s some serious beef in that unit and they absolutely get movement though sometimes they aren’t necessarily sure what they are supposed to be doing...

I believe this play is called GTT Counter...

Still, it was good to see the next wave get some reps. We still have too much to stress about for the 2019 season to worry ourselves with replacing the full offensive line in 2020. But you can’t understate the importance of getting live reps like this for your 2nd stringers up front. Hopefully, Auburn can obliterate a few more opponents so this group can continue to see some live fire before taking over next season.

War Eagle!