Auburn, Ala.--One of the questions surrounding Auburn's move to the spread offense for the 2008 season concerned the Tigers' defense. Many wondered if the move would make the defense softer against the run because of a lack of physical work against that type of offense every day in practice.
While injuries have contributed greatly to the defense's lack of success against the run in recent weeks, the biggest problem has come on the other side of the ball. Offensively, Auburn's lack of success running the football has been startling.
After rushing for 321 yards in the season opener, 132 in game two and 161 in the third game, the Tigers have managed a total of just 557 yards on the ground in the last six games.
Those yards have come on 225 carries. That comes out to an average of just 2.52 yards per carry, numbers that leave no doubts about why the Tigers are struggling to score points. While there have been injuries in the backfield and to Lee Ziemba (knee), Jason Bosley (shoulder) and Byron Isom up front, senior guard Tyronne Green says for him it comes down to some changes made before the season on the offensive line and things just not coming together for the group.
"When we started off in the spread it changed up a lot of things we did last year as far as the offensive line and blocking schemes and how we blocked," Green says. "We're kind of going back to some old things now. When we were in the spread I guess we lost some of our technique and get off and our drive blocking. That's what we've been trying to do is get back to that mode of knocking people off the ball."
When asked about the problems up front, Ziemba says there have been mistakes made and missed assignments, but ultimately he notes that the line wasn't tough or physical enough this season. Green backed up those comments and adds it's something that is not acceptable for an offensive line.
"I'm sure that's how we feel about it," Green says. "I guess that's the only way you can put it, we're just not tough enough and are not getting the job done. A couple of games we got stopped on the goal line on fourth and inches. On drives like that when you're driving the ball you've got to punch it in. That pretty much falls on the offensive line. We're trying to get some toughness back and trying to find our old selves. It has been a slow process I guess."
That's something that is tough to take for a group expected to be one of the best in the SEC this season with four returning starters. Green says that no matter what offense you run things start up front and that's been a problem this season.
"It's hard to think about it knowing that a lot of things fall back on us," Green says. "We're pretty much open up for the offense. If the run is working for us it will open up the pass. Pretty much everything is on the offensive line.
"We take it hard when the offense is not clicking and we're not moving the ball and going three and out. Whenever we're not driving the ball and putting up points the whole offensive line puts the burden on us. We feel like it's our fault."
While that sentiment is echoed by Ziemba, the offensive line has been far from the only problem area on offense this season. Entering this weekend's homecoming game against UT-Martin on a four-game losing streak, the Tigers are looking to get something going heading into the final two games against rivals Georgia and Alabama. Green says that's the goal for the remainder of the season, to go out on a high note.
"I think everybody is trying to stay positive," Green says. "It hasn't been the type of season we expected. You can't keep letting the losses get you down. You've got to come back each week and prepare for a new team. I think the mood is still good. Everybody is still getting after it at practice trying to better themselves for our game this week. You've got to try to keep getting better.
"I definitely was expecting and wishing for a better season," Green adds. "It is what it is. You can't turn back the hands of time. The losses have happened. We're just trying to push on for the rest of the season and trying to win the next three."
Auburn senior guard Tyronne Green talks about the problems on offense and the play of the offensive line.