Record 1-2, overall, 0-1 in SEC
Note: Knowing the Enemy is in its 12th season.
Auburn runs the read option offense. It is an offense known by many names like “the pistol,” and “zone read” to name a few.
The Read Option
This offense can feature three wide receivers and a tight end, or four wide receivers. It can have two running backs or one running back. The quarterback does not take the ball under center, or at least not most of the time.
1The offensive line has to be in great shape. They have to have great footwork, and be able to move quickly. In the read option, the offensive line employs a zone blocking scheme. Zone blocking in the running game is when two or three offensive linemen work in tandem as opposed to each offensive lineman having a specific, predetermined man to block. Zone blocking involves the center, guard, tackle and tight end working in combination to block an area with an emphasis on double-teaming the defensive linemen who are aligned on the line of scrimmage.
The concept is for two adjacent linemen to come off in unison and attack a defensive line to the play side or to the side the ball carrier is going. The advantage, as opposed to man blocking, is that one creates a double team with two players blocking one defensive lineman. This allows the offensive linemen to be aggressive because he knows he has help if his defensive lineman was to pinch inside. It also provides movement at the point of attack, which can open creases for the running back.
Zone blocking initially starts out as a double team at the point of attack on the down defensive linemen, but the beauty of it is that one of the offensive linemen will leave to attack the linebacker while one stays to take over the defensive lineman. The key is for the two offensive linemen working in unison to double-team the defensive lineman to decide who and when one of them will leave to block the linebacker.
Skilled zone blocking linemen are also good at pass blocking.
Zone blocking was designed to combat moving linemen, not necessarily moving linebackers. The offensive linemen are big factors of having a successful zone blocking scheme and read option offense.
As previously mentioned, a read option offense uses multiple formations. The intent is to horizontally spread a defense, increasing creases for backs, ends, and quarterbacks.
Imagine a band and the bandleader. It is the job of the bandleader to make sure all parts of the band are functioning properly. In a traditional offense the bandleader is the quarterback. It is the job of the quarterback to make sure the rest of the team, or the band functions properly. The quarterback does not do any of the “heavy lifting” in a traditional offense. In the traditional offense, when passing, the quarterback resides in a stationary zone called a pocket, guarded by offensive linemen.
In the traditional offense, the defensive has an 11 to 10 man physical advantage because the quarterback is not tasked to do any heavy lifting.
A read option offense is not traditional. The quarterback is not just a bandleader, but he is a part of the band as well. He is a ringleader. The quarterback can run and pass, and can move a pocket. On a run, or pass, the designated area of attack can change on a read, hence the term read option. For instance, on a handoff to a running back the crease or hole may vary because of a zone block read. A crease may appear because of the direction a defense takes for the threat of the run from the quarterback or running back. The offense creates motion, on the offense and the defense. It is 11 on 11, not 10 on 11 like in a traditional offense, which means a breakdown by one player on defense can be lethal, for the defense.
Does this sound like a lot to digest? If so imagine a defense having to do this for an entire game to stop the read option, when the read option is run correctly.
The success of the read option depends on a quarterback with superior recognition and mobility skills. This is why Auburn is 1-2 on the season. Their two most experienced quarterbacks, senior Jeremy Johnson and sophomore Sean White, cannot run the read option offense, at least not effectively. They function better in a traditional offense. White ran the offense well in the only Auburn win, a 51-14 win over Arkansas State. However running the offense proved to be a little different when playing teams like Clemson and Texas A&M.
Against Clemson, when Auburn used three quarterbacks, White was 10-21 passing for 120 yards. In the Texas A&M contest, he was 18 of 27 throwing for 140 yards, and was sacked three times.
Junior college transfer John Franklin looks better equipped to run the read option for Auburn. He is mobile, faster, but he has not had that much experience, or playing time to get the experience.
Running back Kamryn Pettway, a sophomore, has rushed for over 100 yards twice this season, including 123 in the defeat to Texas A&M. Sophomore Kerryon Johnson rushed for 94 yards against Clemson and had a 100 yard rushing game against Texas A&M.
Auburn receivers have not had any breakout games this season. This is not hard to believe considering the instability at the quarterback position. However, the Plainsmen/War Eagles/Tigers have receivers who can catch the ball. Seniors Tony Stevens and Marcus Davis can catch the ball and make plays when they get the ball. Sophomore Ryan Davis, who played quarterback in high school can make plays, when he gets the ball. Marcus Davis is the only returning starter with considerable experience from last year.
Senior guard Alex Kozan and junior guard Braden Smith return as starters for the Auburn offensive line from the 2015 season, along with junior returning starter and center Austin Golson.
Surprisingly, the Plainsmen/Tigers/War Eagles have played well on defense this season. Auburn plays two sets of down linemen. Sophomore Dontavius Russell and senior Montravius Adams have been good on the defensive interior.
Auburn has started three sophomores at the linebacking position, Deshaun Davis, Montavious Atkinson, and Darrell Williams.
In the secondary, returning starters Tray Matthews a junior, and Carlton Davis, a sophomore have been top tacklers on the team in the first three games.
Field goal kicker Daniel Carson is the second leading place kicker in the league. He has not missed a field goal, with his longest coming from 53 yards.
The Purple and Gold should know even if Auburn loses, they still make their opponents earn the win, so it will not be easy Saturday night on the Plains.