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Auburn fires Franklin amid offensive struggles

AUBURN, Ala. – Tony Franklin, whose spread offense failed to produce in the season’s first six weeks, was relieved of his duties as Auburn’s offensive coordinator Wednesday, less than a year after he took the job.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville met with players prior to the team’s afternoon practice to inform them of the decision.

“After evaluating where we are at this point of the season offensively, I felt it was in the best interest of the Auburn football program to make this change,” Tuberville said in a release from the school.

“I’m not satisfied with where we are, and I am personally going to take a larger role with the offense the remainder of the season. We are going to work harder than ever to make sure we consistently improve as we move forward.”

It is not clear who will handle offensive play-calling duties when Auburn (4-2, 2-2 SEC) hosts Arkansas on Saturday.

Franklin was hired last year to install the “Tony Franklin Offense,” a spread formation that had enormous success at Troy, where he was the offensive coordinator the previous two seasons.

But the Tigers have struggled all season. They rank 103rd nationally in scoring offense, 103rd in passing offense and 104th in total offense.

Tuberville defended the spread as recently as Tuesday.

“This is what we’re going run,” he said. “We’re going to run it, we’re going to keep running it and we’re going to get better at it.

“Sometimes people will say, ‘Why don’t you go back to doing what you did?’ Well, if you do that, then you are asking for major disaster. The light is somewhere at the end of that tunnel and we’re not close to it yet.”

Something clearly changed overnight.

Clad in a blue, collared shirt emblazoned with the Auburn logo and khaki shorts, Franklin packed up his belongings from the Athletic Complex and put them in his SUV shortly after the team began practice Wednesday afternoon.

“Y’all look like you got fired,” he joked with reporters as he passed.

He offered no comment on the situation, saying that he needed to speak with “some people” before he would answer questions from the media.

Asked why he packed up his stuff so quickly, Franklin said, “I don’t have any reason to hang around.”

He hugged a few athletic department assistants before driving off.

Franklin was Tuberville’s fifth offensive coordinator in 10 years at Auburn. He replaced Al Borges, who resigned his post in December prior to the Chick-fil-A Bowl after four years. The Tigers ranked 101st nationally in total offense last season.

Franklin gained fame for reviving Troy’s lifeless offense by installing the “Tony Franklin System,” which he peddled to high school and college teams as a consultant for several years before getting back in the coaching ranks.

Troy went from last in total offense in the Sunbelt Conference to second in a year. Last season, the Trojans ranked first in the league and 17th nationally.

Franklin appeared to have struck a chord upon arriving in December. With a limited version of the spread, the Tigers rolled up 423 yards in a 23-20 overtime win against Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

The offense took a major step back this year, however. Auburn failed to gain more than 250 yards in each of its last two games. It scored five offensive touchdowns in four SEC games.

Although Franklin was guaranteed autonomy to run the offense when he took the job, that didn’t appear to be the case as the season progressed.

Against Tennessee, Tuberville told Franklin to put backup quarterback Kodi Burns in the game for starter Chris Todd.

Week by week, the offense looked less like the spread Franklin hoped to run. The Tigers found some success using more traditional sets against Vanderbilt, with a single back, two tight ends and the quarterback under center.

Franklin signed a two-year guaranteed contract Aug. 11 that paid him $280,000 annually.