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Living with an edge is part of Auburn's playbook
Nov. 1, 2014

Bouncing around the edge, Cameron Artis-Payne is on the go for Auburn

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala.  Auburn wants to live on the edge…Gus Malzahn's edge, where teams are just a little bit more ready, where the offenses can get around the corner and head down field.

No. 3 Auburn will be thinking about that Saturday when it faces No. 4 Ole Miss in the first-ever meeting between two highly-ranked teams from the College Football Playoff standings in, well, the first-ever week of the standings that will ultimately determine who plays for the national championship. Kickoff is 6 p.m. on ESPN.

Getting their "edge" back was a buzzword for the 2013 Tigers. The word was bandied about this week as well. Last week, too, when Auburn beat South Carolina 42-35.

"Our guys bought in and practiced really hard and at a different level. The urgency was there," said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.

“It’s just everything as far as effort and just the little things," said receiver Melvin Ray.

Now, it's Ole Miss, with one of the top defenses in the SEC. In practical terms, Auburn wants to get to the edge quicker as it runs around the ends, whether it is running the zone-read around the perimeter or blocking down field to spring long runs.

"That was one of those things that compared to the year before we just weren't getting production on the edge like we did the year before," coach Gus Malzahn said. "So we just really tried to make that a point of emphasis, and I thought for the most part our guys did a good job of that in this past game."

Ray didn't have a catch the last game, but you can tell he played well. He met with the media this week, a sure indication he did some of the important things out of the spotlight.

"As a college Division I wide receiver, you should be able to catch the football. That’s our job. The little things are what people may not notice, but as far as blocking-wise, that’s what I want people to be able to see and say 'he's a complete guy other than just being able to catch the football,'" Ray said. "If I can do my job, I know we have explosive guys like Nick and Cam and Ricardo and Corey. If we can do our job on the perimeter, we can really spring them for bigger plays."

Auburn will introduce Nick Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne, Ricardo Louis and Corey Grant to Ole Miss. They accounted for 361 yards rushing, 139 passing, 52 yards receiving and 12 yards worth of returns against South Carolina when Auburn found the edge on the field with the zone-read, circa 2013, and the urgency of a tempo offense on the go.

"It brings a lot. Our tempo is our offense. That’s our edge," Ray said. "That’s really when we’re at our best, when we can get people thinking fast and just get the ball moving with one play to the next and have defenses off-balance. That’s when we’re really going and it’s hard to stop us."

That also means that Marshall is creating big plays, like he did on three touchdown runs last week.

"That’s where the effort thing comes into play," Ray said. "I was just trying to be downfield and be a body presence. Nick makes a lot of cutbacks and a lot of moves. As long as I can shield the defender and be in his way, I know Nick can make the right decision, which he did, he cut behind me. I didn’t necessarily get a hand on the guy, but I got in the way enough to spring him the last few yards."

It was the on edge.

"It wasn’t necessarily the plays, but how quickly guys got lined up and how they were urgent to get to the next play," Ray said. "We noticed once we lined up, Nick made a lot of great reads. A lot of plays we ran it was just on him and his decision-making. He made a lot of good decisions. Once we got it going, we knew it was going to be pretty good.”new it was going to be pretty good.”

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


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