We are getting closer and closer by the day. Kentucky and Auburn will square off at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 26. The kick is set for noon, which could be advantageous for the Cats. Kentucky will go against three of the top offensive minds in college football in its first three weeks of the 2020 schedule: Gus Malzahn, Lane Kiffin, and Mike Leach. First up is Gus Malzahn and his new offensive coordinator Chad Morris. So, let’s take our initial dive into the 2020 Auburn Tiger offense, shall we?
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn hired Chad Morris to take over the Tiger offense after Morris was relieved from his duties as the Arkansas head coach. Malzahn will have a say-so in the offensive game plan, but Morris will perform day-to-day responsibilities and call plays on game days. Prior to Morris’s troublesome two years in Fayetteville, he had a successful stint at SMU. Morris cut his teeth in Power 5 football when he served as Dabo Swinney’s offensive coordinator from 2011 through 2014. Morris’ biggest challenge will be replacing four offensive line starters. The Tigers return all three starters at receiver and quarterback.
QB Bo Nix – 6’2, 213 Sophomore. SEC Freshman of the Year. 2019 results: 217-377 passing for season for 2,542 yards and 16 scores (all Auburn freshman records); also rushed for 313 yards and seven touchdowns.
RB D.J. Williams – 5’10, 208 Sophomore. Rushed for 400 yards in 2019. Replacing the production of Boobie Whitlow will not be an easy task.
TE/H John Samuel Shenker – 6’3, 241 Junior. Played in 13 games, started 5 in 2019.
WR Seth Williams – 6’3, 211 Junior. Ranks 17th in Auburn career receiving yards with 1,364 yards and 19th in career receptions with 85. Caught 59 passes for 830-yards and 8 touchdowns in 2019.
WR Anthony Schwartz – 6’0, 189 Junior. Caught 41 passes for 440-yards a year ago.
WR Eli Stove – 6’0, 191 Senior. 37 receptions, 321-yards, and 3 touchdowns in 2019.
WR Shedrick Jackson – 6’0, 201 Junior. 2019-played in nine games, started five.
LT Austin Troxell – 6’6, 312 Junior. Missed 2019 due to injury.
LG Tashawn Manning – 6’3, 324 Junior. A backup, Manning played in 5 games in 2019.
C Nick Brahms – 6’3, 299 Junior. Started 5 games in 2019.
RG Jalil Irvin – 6’2, 310 Sophomore. A backup a year ago, played in four games.
RT Brodarious Hamm – 6’5, 330 Junior. Played in 11 games in 2019.
CONDENSED 2019 STATISTICAL ANALYSIS
- Scoring Offense – 33.2 points per game, SEC-3rd.
- Rushing Offense – 199 ypg, SEC-4th.
- Passing Offense – 207 ypg, SEC-9th
- Total Offense – 408 ypg, SEC-6th.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Kentucky has to prepare for a new offensive coordinator in Chad Morris going into the opener. Arkansas film won’t necessarily translate because the level of athlete at Auburn is much higher than what he had to work with at Arkansas. QB Bo Nix is a rising star in the SEC and is poised to have a breakout season. Replacing 4/5 offensive line starters will be a challenge for the Tigers, but having Nix and a loaded stable of talented pass catchers could ease the transition.
With a Chad Morris offense, you can expect a plethora of motions, play action passes, trickery, formations, personnel groups, and misdirection plays. Bo Nix is a true dual-threat quarterback that is improving with each and every snap in practice and on the game field. He will test the Cats’ ability to slow or stop quarterback runs and run-pass option plays. In my humble opinion, Auburn will take on more of a pass heavy look than it was in 2019. But, it will mix in a dose of run/pass option plays in order to keep the Wildcat defense honest with its rush.
We’ll have much, much more on the Auburn Tigers in the days leading up to the opener.