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AUBURN, Ala.—Auburn (3-4, 1-3) finally got a break after the start of the SEC gauntlet, and the Tigers are still looking for direction and identity. Bryan Harsin’s job security has been up in the air and undefined by the athletic department or Harsin himself, who has remained committed to the program, taking the season one game at a time.
After tough matchups with No. 1 Georgia and No. 7 Ole Miss, both undefeated and in the top-10, the Tigers will welcome a struggling Arkansas (4-3, 1-3) to Jordan-Hare Stadium in what would be a battle for last in the SEC West.
So where can the Tigers make adjustments and prepare for the showdown with Arkansas?
1. Build off of rushing performance against Ole Miss
Auburn had by far its best rushing performance of the year this past Saturday against Ole Miss. The Rebels, which had been steady against the run at this point in the season, were gashed by the Tigers to the tune of 301 yards on the ground, including 179 for Tank Bigsby and 80 for Jarquez Hunter. This was the best performance on the line of scrimmage for the Tigers and a good step forward for the offense following the Georgia game, but they still need to do more on the line to avoid the negative runs that have killed so many drives before they have even begun this season.
2. Make it easy on Robby Ashford
Robby Ashford has shown flashes, but he still clearly has a way to go as a passer and could use some help from Coach Kiesau calling the plays. In his four games as a starter, the number of pass attempts has varied from 18 and 17 against Missouri and Ole Miss to 38 against LSU and UGA. The offense has been very inconsistent when passing the ball, either leaning on it entirely and staying overly aggressive or abandoning it in preference of the run game. Auburn needs to find a balance and needs to find a way to ease Ashford into the game with some quick and easy throws for the freshman.
3. Show more creativity in play calling
In the same breath, Auburn’s vanilla running game has done the offense and Ashford no favors. While the passing game needs to be somewhat simplified, the running game needs to get the ball into the hands of Bigsby and Hunter. They are arguably Auburn’s two most dynamic playmakers along with Ja’Varrius Johnson and as of now the rushing attack has relied on under-center plays that have failed to produce much.
4. Find a way to bring more pressure with the linebackers
Auburn played just five defensive lineman against Ole Miss and the defense as a whole paid for it, giving up the most rushing yards by an Auburn defense in 22 years and allowing the Rebels to gain 448 yards on the ground, the second-most in program history against a Power 5 opponent. Auburn has suffered injuries at that position group, and the loss of Eku Leota has hurt the team’s depth and ability to make a difference at the line of scrimmage. Bringing pressure with the linebackers could ease the strain on the group and mix things up for opposing offenses.
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