Change of Game Plans

New coordinator Tony Franklin opens up an offense that had become too predictable
August 10, 2008

THE TOUT on Tony Franklin's website promises an offensive revolution. With The Systems Seminar, coaches can learn how to guarantee a touchdown on every play, use one snap count that will drive opponents crazy and unlock the magic of the mesh pass route. ¶ For the low, low introductory price of $3,495, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville could have subscribed to Franklin's system, which includes a massive playbook for his up-tempo spread offense, hours of DVD instruction, video analysis of your team's games and a help line. Instead, Tuberville paid significantly more when he hired the system's creator last December, making Franklin his offensive coordinator.

Franklin, who became a coaching outcast after he resigned as Kentucky's offense coordinator in 2000 and then blew the whistle on the Wildcats' illicit recruiting practices, has sold his copyrighted strategy to high school coaches for most of this decade. Its success helped him get back into coaching. He was hired as offensive coordinator by Troy in December 2005, and the Trojans rose from 111th in the nation in scoring offense in '05 to No. 25 in '07.

That drew the attention of Tuberville, whose Tigers struggled to move the ball last season under coordinator Al Borges; they ranked 97th in total offense, averaging 335.2 yards per game. Enter Franklin, who installed much of his offense in a few practices before Auburn's Chick-fil-A Bowl date with Clemson, then saw the Tigers pile up 423 yards (on 90 snaps) in a 23--20 overtime win. "It really boosted my confidence and gave me a head start," says sophomore quarterback Kodi Burns, who is competing with junior college transfer Chris Todd for the starting job.

Todd, who was limited in the spring by a nagging shoulder injury, is a rocket-armed junior who ran the Franklin offense in high school, but the system seems to better suit Burns, an excellent runner who has the arm to run a pro-style attack. Burns says that Franklin's offense could make stars out of wideouts Tim Hawthorne and James Swinton. Nevertheless, the Tigers plan to keep backs Brad Lester and Ben Tate, who combined for 1,433 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns last year, active in the offense.

Shouldn't the Tigers worry that SEC coaches will sign up on Franklin's website for their own copies of the system's playbook? "Anybody who tries to prepare for everything that's in there is going to have a lot more problems," Franklin says, "than if they just watched film of the game we played the week before."

FRANKLIN's SPREAD HAD 423 YARDS IN THE TIGERS' BOWL WIN.

CONFERENCE: SEC

COACH: Tommy Tuberville (10th year)

2007 RECORD: 9--4 (5--3 in SEC)

FINAL AP RANK: 15

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense 8, Defense 7

SCHEDULE

AUGUST
30 Louisiana-Monroe

SEPTEMBER
6 Southern Miss
13 at Mississippi State
20 LSU
27 Tennessee

OCTOBER
4 at Vanderbilt
11 Arkansas
23 at West Virginia

NOVEMBER
1 at Mississippi
8 Tennessee-Martin
15 Georgia
29 at Alabama

KEY GAME
Last season Auburn lost in Baton Rouge on a touchdown pass in the final second. The winner of this matchup has gone on to win the SEC West in six of the past eight seasons.

WORTH NOTING

Missing from a defense that ranked sixth in the country in 2007 is coordinator Will Muschamp, who took the same job at Texas. His replacement is Paul Rhoads, whose Pitt defense was fifth in the nation.

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PHOTOTODD J. VAN EMSTA big target at 6'3", Hawthorne should thrive in the spread attack. PHOTO

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