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Rhett Lashlee looks to repeat Auburn's second-half run
Oct. 24, 2014

Nick Marshall is on the go for Auburn

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. -- Rhett Lashlee says he wants his offense to do what it did in the second half of last season.

You know, put up more yards, score more points, make a run at the national championship game. 

No. 5 Auburn, at 5-1, plays host to No. 23 South Carolina at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium after a bye week to recalibrate things.

"If you felt like you were playing at the best level you could play at, you'd probably be a little worried," said Auburn's offensive coordinator this week.

Auburn has hit the halfway point of the regular season ranked third in scoring and fourth in total offense in the SEC while averaging 488 yards per game.

Last year, Auburn averaged 474 yards per game in the first six games, and then improved. The Tigers averaged, 508 yards in the next six games and 521 yards over the final eight-game stretch that included the SEC Championship Game and the BCS title game.

The bye week has given Auburn time for some midseason adjustments. Coach Gus Malzahn says a couple of freshmen figure to be in the bigger picture in the second half: running back Roc Thomas may get more carries, offensive lineman Braden Smith may come in earlier to spell the starters.

Almost all of the offense runs through quarterback Nick Marshall, who is first in passing and second in rushing like last year. After that, "we have to ask ourselves as coaches if we're asking guys to do something they're not capable of. Do we need to word it different or coach it different so it gets through? At the end of the day, if we're not executing in certain areas, then either they aren't doing it because we aren't communicating it right or they're not doing it because we are putting them in a situation they're not meant for."

Malzahn says he's looking for the happy medium, but that doesn't mean a perfectly balanced offense.

"Balance is dictated on what they give you. It's not that balance is, 'hey we're going to be perfectly rushing yards to passing yards.' That's not the way it works," he said. "Balance to me is taking what they give you. If they give you the pass, you've got to be able to execute it. If they give you the run, you've got to be able to execute it.

"I do feel better about where we're at this year than we were last year at that point."
Enter the wide receivers, where Duke Williams has jumped to the forefront with 31 catches. A healthier Sammie Coates figures to build on his 12 catches in the second half. Eight wide or slot receivers have catches. Three running backs and a tight end have catches, too.

Still, the spotlight has found Williams and Coates.

"If the ball goes to those guys, it goes to those guys. The way it was last year, we didn't have a lot of guys other than Sammie with big numbers. But when guys ' numbers were called, they made the plays. That's where we have to get to," Lashlee said.

"If a guy's number is called, if that's where the quarterback's read takes him, whether he's the first option of the third option, those guys have to make plays. We have to make throws and give them a chance to make plays.

"One game it might one guy has three or four catches. The next game he may not have any. That may be the way the game goes. You have certain guys you want to get the ball to, but at the same time, we are real big on the concept that is needed for the coverage or the concept needed for the situation and trusting your read.

"I'm not worried about who get what or spreading the ball around. I think if we are playing well, that will happen. If we are making the catches when we have the opportunities, guys ' numbers will go up. If we are making the throws when they are open, guys ' numbers will go up."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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