Oct. 1, 2013
Auburn's offense will be on display against Saturday (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – If he had to, if he absolutely had to, Hugh Freeze figures he could run an offense that looks a lot like Auburn's.
"We certainly can look just alike if we wanted to," he says.
Auburn and Ole Miss won't be mirror images Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium, but Freeze and Gus Malzahn believe in the same offensive philosophy of pace and tempo.
"We've shared offensive ideas over the years," Malzahn said. "And I've taken some of his stuff; he's taken some of our stuff. So there are some similarities."
The nuisances will be the difference.
"You never know exactly what to prepare for…there will be something we don't cover that we see Saturday night, I'm sure," Freeze said.
Malzahn followed Freeze as head coach at Arkansas State in 2012, and the transition was easy because of their similarities. That familiarity trickles down even further, from members of Freeze's Arkansas State staff that stayed with Malzahn and then came to Auburn; to Ryan Aplin, who played quarterback for Freeze and Malzahn and who is now as an administrative intern at Ole Miss.
Aplin was the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year for both coaches when he threw for a combined 6.930 yards in back-to-back years.
State secrets? Not many.
"I wouldn't consider Gus nor myself really spread, but tempo is a good way to describe it," Freeze said.
Freeze's offense was shut out by Alabama 25-0 last week. Malzahn's offense didn't play, but did practice Nick Marshall, he of four games, at quarterback.
"It had to help our quarterback to slow down and really focus on some things that we feel like we could be strong in," Malzahn. "And, really, defensively the same thing. We have a lot of information about our personnel and so we've got a good plan in both areas moving forward for the rest of the season."
Freeze said Aplin, who was hired in August, will be on the sidelines Saturday.
"What was behind it was nothing more than I like to hire good people that played for me," Freeze said. "I like to take care of those guys. When Ryan’s NFL deal fell through this year, that was a no brainer.
"I had a conversation with Ryan earlier this week and told him I know that he’s very close to both of us and did not want him to feel uncomfortable at all in anything that’s going on. I’m sure Gus has changed everything from when Ryan was there but at the same time we have changed some things too and people though that work with you for a while or play for you, there’s only so much you can change with that. They still can probably tell if it’s run or pass. Now if you can do that in time to make calls I don’t know, but we won’t put Ryan in that position."
Besides, said Freeze, "Gus hired people, too, like David Gunn (Auburn's assistant athletic director/football) and Anthony Kincy (strength and conditioning intern). That one coached with me at Arkansas State for two years and one played for me for two years there. We both have that dynamic going on."
Both teams will be looking to get their offense going. Auburn is seventh in the SEC in total offense. Ole Miss is eighth. Both teams are 11th in scoring offense.
Charles Goldberg writes for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine