Offensively the numbers are far from bad, averaging 35.7 points and 393.3 yards per game, but it is consistency that Gus Malzahn and his staff are looking for heading into the Florida Atlantic game this Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
That starts up front with an offensive line that is beginning to come together in the running game, but still struggling at times with communication and picking up the pass rush. That was evident last weekend on the road as a few penalties and lots of hits to quarterback Barrett Trotter were the things that stood out to offensive line Coach Jeff Grimes.
“There were a couple of positives and a couple of negatives,” Grimes said. “The positives were I thought we showed up and competed against a very good defense. I thought the guys stepped and competed and played hard.
“What we did not do is always keep our composure,” he added. “We had a couple of false start penalties and didn’t handle the crowd noise very well. That’s something for those guys, for the tackles particularly, it’s disappointing because they’ve been in that situation before. I really believe they’ll be fine and they’ll fix that.
“Overall we didn’t play as well as we need to. We were certainly in a position to score more points but the bottom line is we didn’t make enough plays and get it done when we had to.”
One of the players in charge of helping to keep the line moving forward and improving is senior left tackle A.J. Greene. A starter on the right side last season before an injury sidelined him, he’s now on the left side along with fellow senior Jared Cooper. Playing just their second game together Greene said there were some problems up front that have to get corrected for the line to get things rolling.
“It was a big learning process,” Greene said of the Clemson game. “On the offensive line communication is a big part of what we do. I won’t say we got rattled, but we couldn’t pick up some things that we needed to pick up at certain times. So we’ve just got to continue to grow and continue to get better so that we unite as one on the offensive line so we understand everything that’s happening.
“Communication comes into play a whole lot. If I recognize something and my guard doesn’t recognize it, that’s a problem. So we have to recognize it and we have to communicate to let everybody know that this might be coming, you need to keep your head up in case this comes. If it doesn’t then it doesn’t, but if it does I need for you to know it’s coming.”
While Auburn’s numbers on offense are solid the one thing that jumps out is the lack of production on third down. This season the Tigers are converting just 35 percent of the time in that situation as compared to a 53 percent success rate one year ago. Greene said it’s something the offense has to continue to work on and improve beginning this weekend.
“It’s huge,” he said. “Being on offense, converting on third down is obviously a huge part of the game. If you can’t convert on third down, then you can’t continue to score. Third down is a huge thing we need to continue to grow on and continue to just try to get better.”
Something that should continue to help Auburn’s third down percentage is more and more leaning on the running game and sophomore Michael Dyer. Averaging 119.3 yards per game and a ridiculous 7.5 yards per carry, Dyer is the leader of a group that is averaging 183.3 yards per contest and 5.3 yards per carry as a team. Grimes said having the running game picking up steam can only help the offense as it continues to grow.
Jeff Grimes is in his third season with the Tigers.
“I think it’s huge,” Grimes said. “If you look at our yards per carry and compare that within the conference it says we’re doing some good things running the ball.
"Obviously, we have some really good backs. Mike looks faster and more explosive than I think he was at any time last year. If he sees a seam he’s going to take it. My guys are struggling to keep up with him sometimes. Our backs are doing a great job. I think we as a line have gotten better in the run game each week but we still have a lot of room left to get better.”