When Eric Kiesau was promoted to offensive coordinator (OC) during the offseason, he was put in a position that had been surrounded by controversy for the second time in his short tenure with the Auburn Tigers.

Kiesau was the offensive coordinator at Boise State under Bryan Harsin before joining Auburn as an offensive analyst, but he was thrust into the spotlight when he replaced wide receivers coach Cornelius Williams, who was fired after just four games. 

After offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was fired and Austin Davis’ tenure as his replacement was short-lived, Harsin turned to Kieseau once again, this time to helm the Auburn offense.

“The job has been crazy, I will say that. But I think doing this for 23-24 years, long time, you kinda go with the flow,” Kiesau said.

The position of offensive coordinator at Auburn has been a revolving door since 2016, with seven different coaches taking over the offense since that year. Rhett Lashlee, Chip Lindsey, Kenny Dillingham, Chad Morris, Mike Bobo, Austin Davis and now Eric Kiesau.

The revolving door of offensive coordinators has caused headaches both on and off the field, and the unit has not found consistency since the Nick Marshall era. 

On Wednesday, Harsin officially confirmed that Kiesau would be calling the plays for the Tigers this season.

“Coach Kiesau is the play-caller,” Harsin declared. “As we put [the gameplan] together, I think it really comes from the entire staff, but that’s what he’ll be doing.”

In Kiesau’s two seasons as the Broncos’ OC, Boise State went 17-4, including a 12-2 campaign in 2019, the best season of Bryan Harsin’s career. 

During that 2019 season, Kiesau’s offense was a solid balance of run and pass, averaging 33.1 passes a game and 37.6 rushes per game, a solid 70 plays a game. On the way to a 12-2 record, the Broncos had the 19th-best scoring offense in the entire country. 

Auburn has not had an offense inside the top-20 nationally in scoring since the 2013 season when Nick Marshall and Gus Malzahn took the NCAA by storm. 

The key to the Kiesau offense is efficiency and explosive plays, with a completion percentage of 61.9% and 261.7 yards per game through the air. 

Kiesau may have his quarterback at Auburn in T.J. Finley, someone who won the job despite two big-name transfers competing this offseason. Finley’s natural arm talent has been impressive, but consistency on the intermediate throws is something that this offense will need.

The wide receiver corps was one of the most inconsistent groups for Auburn last year, and this year’s unit is composed of some veterans and a host of newcomers. Shedrick Jackson and Malcolm Johnson, Jr. are two of the starters but redshirt freshman Tar’varish Dawson, Jr. will also be getting the start on Saturday. 

Additionally, Camden Brown has impressed in camp and Landen King is the X-factor to keep an eye on as the offense opens up against Mercer. In working with the wide receivers last year, Kiesau already has a connection with the group.

“He’s been a great leader for the offense. We kind of got close with Coach Kiesau last year as a receivers coach as well,” said tight end Tyler Fromm. “That’s kind of what I appreciate the most out of Coach Kiesau. He’s very upfront, he’s always trying to come and do stuff to run against certain defenses.”

With one of the most talented running back duos in the country in Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter, the offense could lean on the duo to take pressure off of Finley and the passing attack. 

The success of the running game will live or die with the offensive line, and that unit has some serious question marks heading into Saturday. The right guard position is still up for grabs between Keiondre Jones or Kameron Stutts, and the loss of veteran center Nick Brahms may hurt more than people realize.

Despite this, Kiesau remains confident in the group, and it is a clear focus for him as the season begins. 

“It’s going to be exciting. I think it could really be a strong group for us upfront,” Kiesau said. “Especially as they gain that chemistry and working together from game one to game two to game 6 and as the season goes on.”

It may be against Mercer, but Saturday’s game is a great opportunity for Kiesau and the offense to showcase different looks and different schemes. The production might not be a huge deal, since it is against Mercer and Auburn opened the 2021 season by scoring 122 points in two games, but getting a feel for the offensive style, seeing how Kiesau utilizes the skill positions and if T.J. Finley can take the next step as the starter will signal how the season could fare.

The Mercer game will kick off at 6 p.m. CST. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and it's the first of five consecutive home games to start the season for Auburn.

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