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Countdown to kickoff: Auburn focused on picking up the pace

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee watches players practice Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016 at the university's athletic complex.
Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee watches players practice Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016 at the university's athletic complex. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Editor’s note: T-minus 10 days (Five!) and counting until Auburn opens the season against Clemson on Sept. 3 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Check back every morning as we break down the roster, profile key players and look at unanswered questions coming out of training camp.

The simple message for Auburn coaches to the offense from spring camp through the fall has been to pick up the pace.

Coach Gus Malzahn wants the offense to get back to the pace that helped define the program’s success in 2010 and 2013.

“It's been a big emphasis,” Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson said. “We've all acknowledged we kind of slowed down last year. That's something that he made a big point of this year to get back to. We've to get back to going fast more consistently. We've been practicing very, very fast.”

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee sees players responding to the focus on tempo as well.

“The guys are playing at the tempo we want,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “I think we’re doing a good job of putting them in positions and doing the tempo the way we need at the end of the day.”

Auburn faces many of the same issues that slowed the offense down in 2015

The Tigers’ substitution patterns last year dragged down the pace of the offense as coaches constantly rotated skill players. It was an issue Lashlee acknowledged after the team’s loss to Mississippi St.

“It's important,” Lashlee said. “We've looked at simplifying some things.”

Auburn hoped to avoid the problem this year, but the offensive depth chart still has a number of “unknowns” as Lashlee described Sunday night. The departure of Jovon Robinson and a pledge to play a number of young receivers means there is a good chance the Tigers are still searching for the most effective combinations on the field.

The other issue is one of execution.

Auburn can go as fast it wants, but if the offense doesn’t move the chains it won’t matter.

“It’s going to become, when we get to a game, are you productive?” Lashlee said. “If we’re not moving the chains, there’s not going to be any tempo.”

Stat of the day

Auburn’s offense last year wasn’t the slowest of coach Malzahn’s career. The Tigers ran 892 plays for an average of 5.39 yards per play, but it was slightly faster and efficient than the 2011 team with Malzahn as the offensive coordinator (828 plays, 5.3 yards per play).

Catch up

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