Gus Malzahn shrugged his shoulders.
He’ll take the good with the bad.
In his position, in the SEC, you take everything you can get.
Auburn’s experienced defense is steps ahead of its re-tooled offense as the Tigers power through their second week of preseason camp. That much was evident to seemingly everyone on the field last Thursday for the team’s first fall scrimmage, which saw the defense force stops, create turnovers and run back a defensive score.
And that much shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to any onlookers, knowing defenses usually have a head start with their chance to play full speed and with confidence early in practices while players are offense are still fine-tuning and polishing their plays.
Malzahn isn’t taking it as any reason to panic. He was smiling after Thursday’s scrimmage, seeing positives coming with the negatives on both sides of the ball. If he was still an offensive coordinator instead of the head coach, he probably wouldn’t be smiling, he joked — but his job is to look over the big picture.
The big picture includes the fact that Auburn’s defense brings back plenty of firepower on the defensive line and in the secondary, and the offense is still searching for its starting quarterback among Joey Gatewood and Bo Nix.
“The good thing from our standpoint, as coaches, is we’re going to go in that film room, get everybody in the room, and see why a play worked or didn’t work — and the key is, the good offenses come back and the next time they respond and get it corrected,” Malzahn said under Jordan-Hare Stadium just after that scrimmage.
The team is set to scrimmage again Wednesday as fall camp rolls on.
There, the offense will have its chance to make those corrections and try to take steps forward — though history shows that should be an ongoing process.
Fans can remember that even Cam Newton wasn’t quite the Heisman player he was until about the fourth game of the season in 2010, when he leapt into superstardom against South Carolina. In 2013, Nick Marshall said that it wasn’t until the fifth game of that season, against Ole Miss, that the read option “clicked” for him in Auburn’s scheme, and that’s what propelled that Tigers team to the national championship game.
“It’s just a matter of there was a lot of different moving parts out there and the thing about it is, when you play good defense, all 11 guys have to be on the same page and they have to be doing the right thing and everything has to be clean,” Malzahn said, back after that scrimmage. “Most plays, all 11 weren’t clean.
“It may have been nine and two not, and 10 and one, but when you’re playing a good defense, it’s got to be 11.”
For all 11 to get it all down together, it could take some time.