Auburn's Malzahn still seeking answers for sluggish offense
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Gus Malzahn's offenses typically are fast-moving, creative and consistently productive.
Not so far this year.
The Auburn Tigers have struggled their first four games, leaving them searching for answers before a poor start turns into a disastrous season. The offensive issues have been as numerous as they are surprising for a team that opened the season ranked No. 6.
''We take great pride in scoring points around here and playing well on offense, and we haven't done that yet,'' Malzahn said Tuesday. ''There were times that we've done some good things but we haven't been consistent.''
Johnson was just one of several playmakers who haven't delivered up to expectations.
Wide receiver D'haquille Williams and former five-star tailback signees Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson are off to slow starts. Robinson sustained an ankle injury in the first game and has barely played.
Malzahn acknowledges it's frustrating to not have a clear offensive identity a third of the way through the season. A quarterback switch doesn't help in that regard.
The Tigers rank 109th nationally in passing, 111th in scoring and 112th in total offense. They're also 65th in rushing, where Peyton Barber has been one of the offense's few bright spots.
He's always been able to adapt to the strengths of his quarterbacks, from Cam Newton to Nick Marshall, well enough to win a national title with the former and fall just short with the latter. Malzahn said it's been hard to get into a rhythm with playcalling at times.
The Tigers stalled several times in the red zone in White's first game and managed just three field goals in a 17-9 loss to Mississippi State.
Malzahn remains adamant that the offense isn't going to remain stuck in neutral. The Tigers did go from 260 yards against LSU to 389 versus the Bulldogs but they haven't been able to summon many big plays or the kind of fast tempo Malzahn wants.
''We're going to get better on offense, there's no doubt about it,'' he said. ''But yeah, it's frustrating. Our expectations are to be very good on offense, and I still feel like we'll do that. We need to do it soon. ''
Barber has outshined Auburn's more heralded offensive players, running for 411 yards and only losing a total of 5 yards on 81 carries. Freshman tailback Kerryon Johnson also appears to be carving out a bigger role as a runner and receiver.
Thomas has had moments where he flashes his big-play capabilities but the Tigers' two longest runs have come from Jeremy Johnson and White.
Williams hasn't been the go-to receiver as expected, producing just 11 catches for 130 yards.
''We have targeted our playmakers I'd say quite a bit the first few games, but there's been some issues,'' Malzahn said. ''Either not able to get it to them or double coverage or pressure or something like that, but we'll continue. And that's what we need to do (as) an offensive staff, is figure out ways to get it to the playmakers better than we have the first few games.''