At the very least, new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler knows his situation and what to say. He talks about “our offense” and not his system, a tact one might expect from a guy with a slight background as a coordinator who just replaced a former $1.3 million rock star.
That tact probably resonates well with an offensive staff who just worked under said rock star for three years, and it probably soothes the boss.
After all, it wasn’t that long ago when people talked about former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn as the mastermind and Gene Chizik as the (figure) head coach.
Some offensive coordinators come into games with a number of scripted plays then go on feel. Considering Malzahn’s star lost some shine with Auburn fans last season, understatement is a good early-game script for Loeffler at Auburn.
In fact, let’s amend Loeffler’s status for spring practice. Let’s call him the center of curiosity more than the star attraction.
All eyes most certainly will follow the mystery meat among Auburn’s two new coordinators, but expectations of a star emerging in spring practice only set Loeffler up to disappoint.
It’s way too soon to expect more than tea leaves in Chizik’s first coordinator reset at Auburn, most of all from the near-blank slate that is Loeffler.
The slate he inherits is more blank than his own background. He does, at least, have one year as a coordinator at Temple.
As for the situation Loeffler inherits at Auburn, the quarterback that started and finished Auburn’s 2011 season is gone. What remains?
There’s Clint Moseley, the guy who started the back half of the season but didn’t finish the last game.
There’s Kiehl Frazier, who threw just 12 passes. Seven were caught — two by the wrong team.
And there’s true freshman Zeke Pike.
From that mix, the guy who mentored the likes of Tom Brady and Tim Tebow as a quarterbacks coach must find a starter, and Loeffler has made clear that won’t happen until August.
So look for subtleties this spring, not decisive outcomes. If Frazier, for example, completes passes that cross the line of scrimmage in the air, then Loeffler is making breakthroughs.
As for the system, remember, it’s lower case. No trendy brand names this time.
From Loeffler’s own words and those of Chizik, we get that Auburn wants to get back to more of a pro-set, run-based offense. That’s what Loeffler ran at Temple.
But there’s work to do.
Michael Dyer, the one running back who showed chops between the tackles, transferred to Arkansas State, and most of Auburn’s remaining offensive talent was recruited to Malzahn’s don’t-say-spread system.
Can anyone see end-around running back Onterio McCalebb consistently slamming his slight frame into the line?
Oh, and Auburn’s quarterbacks likely will have to learn physical closeness to the center. Loeffler isn’t saying the shotgun formation is out, but quarterbacks running pro-set offenses usually work more under center.
The Tigers have an abundance of linemen, but they need to learn the physical, pro-set mentality.
Auburn has wide receiver Emory Blake and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen to catch passes, but they also have some once-touted recruits who have yet to produce.
So, Loeffler has a lot of experimenting to do. He and his “our offense” staff have designs, but they also have carry-over talent.
So watch the doings on Auburn’s offense closely. Project away, but don’t expect to be blown away.
That’s why they call it spring practice.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.