How Auburn’s Wildcat formation could look quite different under Chip Lindsey

AUBURN, Ala. — The Wildcat formation is still alive and well for Auburn football — but it could have a new look in 2017.

First-year Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said the formation will be a part of his game plan this season. While junior running back Kerryon Johnson was the main “quarterback” in the look last fall, Lindsey said he thinks several Tigers could handle that responsibility.

“I think we have multiple guys who can do that,” Lindsey said Sunday night. “I know Kerryon has done that and been successful at it, but I think we have multiple guys who can do it.”

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Johnson has done most of his scoring damage at Auburn in the formation, especially in the red zone. All but 1 of his 13 career touchdowns have come inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. He scored on direct snaps in several games last fall, including against Clemson, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.

“We’ve had a lot of success doing it,” Johnson said.

Lindsey has had a lot of success with the formation, too. Last season at Arizona State, he used a modified Wildcat set known as “Sparky,” which was named after the Sun Devils’ mascot and avoided reference of rival Arizona’s nickname.

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In an early-season win against Texas Tech, Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage scored 7 of his FBS-record 8 touchdowns in the formation. Ballage, like Johnson, was Arizona State’s No. 2 running back in yards and carries last year — but he had more touchdowns than No. 1 back Demario Richard.

But Ballage wasn’t the only player to take direct snaps in the formation at Arizona State. According to Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic, Ballage, Richard and running back Nick Ralston each had “Sparky” quarterback responsibilities last fall by design:

“You have to keep it fresh and give it different looks, and I think that’s what we’ve really tried to do,” Lindsey said, adding that the Sun Devils decide each week “what looks make sense depending on who we’re playing and what we’re seeing.”

Added Ballage: “We look at the old film and see what teams are trying to take away, and then we try to figure out a way to exploit it.”

In addition to Johnson, junior H-back Chandler Cox took snaps last fall in a special package under Gus Malzahn. Senior wide receiver-turned-safety Jason Smith played quarterback in high school and junior college.

No matter if Lindsey sticks to one Wildcat quarterback or multiple ones this fall, the entire formation could undergo a major transformation.

Last year, Lindsey’s “Sparky” formation didn’t follow the standard Wildcat procedure of six unbalanced offensive linemen. A Film Room study from earlier this year showed “Sparky” normally consisted of five linemen, two tight ends, two receivers, an H-back and a quarterback.

Whether the Tigers stick to their traditional Wildcat or spin it toward more of a “Sparky” look remains to be seen. The answer might not come this Saturday against Georgia Southern, though, with a big-time matchup at top-5 Clemson looming in Week 2.

“Whether or not we do it the first game or so, I don’t know,” Lindsey said.

The post How Auburn’s Wildcat formation could look quite different under Chip Lindsey appeared first on SEC Country.

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