Spring predictions: No slowing down

Editor’s note: This is Part I of a weeklong series predicting what changes are ahead for Auburn this spring.

AUBURN, Ala. -- Think Auburn was going to slow down based on a 10-second rule that had little to no chance of passing this year? Think again. The rule was tabled last week, and if anything, the Tigers are going to go even faster next season.

“We’re not going to change our approach,” coach Gus Malzahn said before any decision was made on the rule. “I’ve been running a fast-paced offense since 1997, and I’ve never felt like, on either side, that it was a health and safety issue.”

Said Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs: “There are some significant health and safety issues. The health is for the opposing fans, and the safety issue is for the opposing coaches because if they can’t stop it, they’re not going to have a job. So there’s health and safety [issues], but it’s not about the student-athletes.”

There is still some debate as to whether or not the coaches in favor of the rule are genuinely concerned about player safety, but nobody is arguing with what Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle (HUNH) offense was able to accomplish last season and the impact it had on the SEC. Auburn led the nation in rushing and finished second in the conference with 39.5 points per game.

Consider this: The Tigers averaged 73.8 plays per game last year, a staggering number given they averaged a league worst 60.5 plays per game the year before. That number is only expected to go higher as Malzahn enters his second year as head coach.

Quarterback Nick Marshall, the conductor of the offense, returns and will go through spring practice for the first time. It was clear, as he became more comfortable in the offense last year, the number of plays started to increase. By its last four games, Auburn was averaging 79 plays per game.

“We are really excited about the spring with Nick,” Malzahn said. “We got a lot of information throughout the year, and we can build around his strengths even more.”

The Tigers also return four of the five starters on the offensive line, including center Reese Dismukes, the leader of the group and the one who’s in charge of making the calls at the line of scrimmage. He knows a thing or two about running Malzahn’s offense.

College football is changing. More teams are moving to a hurry-up offense, and the game is faster now as a result. Auburn didn’t necessarily start the trend, but after its run to the BCS title last year, it’s certainly at the forefront of the movement.

“That’s what the players like,” Jacobs said. “They like it moving along. Even the defensive guys, they like it moving along. It’s fun.

“If you want to have fun playing football, you need to come to Auburn because it’s a fun place to play. We play fast-paced football. If you don’t like it, go some place that runs a mundane offense and go enjoy yourself. If you want to have fun, come here and play.”

Auburn opens spring practice a week from Tuesday, and if there’s one prediction to be made, it’s that the hurry-up, no-huddle offense will be back and better than ever.