Longtime SEC on CBS analyst Gary Danielson has questions about Auburn football’s new union of Jarrett Stidham, Chip Lindsey and Gus Malzahn.
But if it works, Danielson thinks the Tigers could contend.
“It’s going to be a strange mix with Gus relinquishing the offense and him trying to get away from how he built his reputation, which has been basically been an attack option, downhill triple option offense and running the ball with the quarterback,” Danielson said Thursday in a media conference call. “If they can get that quarterback play… I can’t wait to watch them play.
“That new blend, if they can get it going with the passing attack — because they were practically morbid passing the ball last year — I think they’re a real threat.”
Since his arrival as Auburn’s head coach in 2013, Malzahn has utilized a run-heavy scheme. Last season, the Tigers ran the ball 69 percent of the time.
But Malzahn’s hire of former Arizona State offensive coordinator Lindsey — whose past attacks ranged from 50-50 in balance to pass-first — and the arrival of former Baylor quarterback Stidham have made the Tigers’ head man change his ways this offseason.
Stidham isn’t a traditional dual-threat quarterback, which Malzahn used to great success in 2010 with Cam Newton and 2013 with Nick Marshall. Danielson said he’s curious to see if the Tigers’ offense can be prolific on the ground without that threat.
“The big question I have is can they run the ball without a running quarterback?” Danielson said. “If Jarrett’s going to be successful, it’s not going to be carrying the ball 15 to 20 times a game like Gus is used to.”
Danielson’s fellow CBS analyst, former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, said he has his doubts about the combination of Malzahn, Lindsey and Stidham — especially in the terms of play-calling.
“What I’m interested to watch is what Gus Malzahn’s role in this, because Gus has been the play caller for his whole life,” Neuheisel said Thursday. “I know he gave up the reins a little bit to Rhett Lashlee last year. But is he going to incorporate his quarterback run stuff with Stidham? Is Stidham capable of that? Are they able to run the ball with those great running backs without a quarterback run threat, or is it going to be a hybrid of Lindsey and Malzahn in terms of their offensive philosophy?
“That, to me, could muddy the waters.”
However, like Danielson, Neuheisel thinks Auburn has a high ceiling if that offensive mix clicks alongside its defense this season on the Plains.
Neuheisel said Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele “did an amazing job” last season for the Tigers, and he anticipates more of the same in 2017.
“If the defense can be close to what they were a year ago and this Stidham kid is anywhere close to what they’re anticipating, it could be a magical year for Auburn,” Neuheisel said.
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