AUBURN, Ala. — Improving ball security was a top priority for Auburn during the spring. Last season, the Tigers fumbled 30 times. Eleven of those miscues saw the Tigers turn the ball over to their opponent.
But Rhett Lashlee is hopeful: At this juncture of preseason camp, the offense has been "really good" at holding on to the football.
Still, that came with a caveat.
"We’ve only had the one scrimmage so the level of live work hasn’t been up as much, but we’ve been good," said Lashlee, Auburn's offensive coordinator. "I think that’s kind of one of those things that'll be hard to judge until you play. We’ve worked it. We stress it every day. Everybody that carries the ball, every position — other than our offensive linemen — we do ball security drills every day. Some days more than others but there’s some daily things we do with ball bands and other things that we do every day to emphasize it."
And Lashlee said it's stressed as much in the film room as it is in on the field. The coaching staff doesn't just focus on mistakes, though.
It takes care to note good form and bad form — even when the ball doesn't end up on the ground.
"Plenty of times guys don’t fumble but we see poor ball security and we point it out and we have accountabilities for it," Lashlee said. "When we see great ball security we make sure we point it out so everybody knows that, (too)."
In keeping with one of the team's mantras for the coming season, Lashlee invoked the phrase, "We got to be 13 seconds better," referencing how much time was left on the clock when Florida State scored the go-ahead touchdown in last year's BCS championship game.
To be 13 seconds better in 2014, Lashlee said ball security was at the top of the list.
"(Quarterback) Nick (Marshall) did a pretty good job throwing the football last year but there (were) four glaring fumbles in the year that were really bad," the coach said, "and there were four others that were credited to him that were him and a running back, so whose fault it was really doesn’t matter. It’s got to be corrected."
But Lashlee knows the only thing he and the rest of the coaching staff can do at this point is continue to harp on proper technique.
"Until we play that first game," Lashlee said, "all you can do is emphasize it."