Auburn vs. Arkansas

Auburn football head coach Gus Malzahn speaks to offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey during warmups. Auburn vs. Arkansas on Saturday, Sept. 22, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn.

Don’t blame the players.

Head coach Gus Malzahn opened up his press conference saying as much about Auburn’s woes this season.

He’s absolutely right. Don’t blame the players because quite frankly the blame should be put on the coaching staff.

“We’re coming off a frustrating loss Saturday. I know our fan base is frustrated, I know our players are frustrated and our coaches are. No one needs to be blaming our players,” Malzahn stated at his press conference leading up to Auburn’s game against Tennessee. “Any time a team is not playing at their potential, that’s a coaching issue. That’s my responsibility and I’ve got to do a better job of preparing our coaches and our players moving forward.

“We’re at the halfway point of our season and we’re 4-2. Now that our backs are against the wall, it’s a real similar feeling as it was last year. I’m very confident that we are going to finish this thing. Our team is in a good spot mentally, for everything that we went through the first half of the season, and I think we’re set up to improve each week. We’ve done that the last few seasons; I’m confident we’ll do that again this year.”

The team has struggled with injuries, penalties and finding an offensive identity through the first half of the season. The Tigers are the 100th best offense with an average of 364.2 yards per game, they average 7.2 penalties per game and multiple starters on the offensive line have been shaky to play due to injury while running back JaTarvious Whitlow played through the pain in the last game.

At a certain point it’s up to the coaches to take what they are presented with and make the best of the situation.

It’s not to say that coaches are to blame, or even any one of them. Yes, it’s a bit odd to blame the coaches, but on the back end cover for them. But, the point to that is that as we may expect the players to bond together as a team, the same applies for the coaches to come together as a staff to recognize their weaknesses and address them.

We have seen it time and again that Auburn has pulled through early struggles, whether they may be on the players, coaches or elsewhere. Rest assured, the Tigers will pull through this rough patch and they will use Tennessee and even Ole Miss as an opportunity to right the ship.

Last year the losses to Clemson and LSU were turned into a 10-4 season and a berth to the SEC Championship. In 2013, Auburn ran along the precipice of either a subpar or remarkable season. The program under Malzahn pulled through each obstacle to go 12-2 before ending the season with a loss in the BCS National Championship. Through that season half of Auburn’s wins came down to the wire with single-digit differences in six wins, to include the famous Kick Six 34-28 win against Alabama.

Malzahn’s program has run the edge of success time and again. Going from 12-2 in 2013 to a pair of 8-5 seasons and a 7-6 one before earning a 10-4 mark last year, Auburn has seen what it takes to pull through.

As the head coach, Malzahn rightfully takes the brunt of the blame. He owns up to the miscues, and frankly he should be applauded for that. He knows what needs to be addressed, but because he’s seen the process and worked through it before, he also isn’t going to hit the panic button.

For now, this is a matter to allow for Malzahn to take his coaching staff and build up the team. The players are there, they’ve bought in and they’re ready to go. Now, it’s just a matter of putting them in the position to succeed.​

Scott Fields is the Sports Editor for the Opelika-Auburn News. He can be reached at sfields@oanow.com

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