AUBURN — His ethos may have been “All In” but Gene Chizik’s failure to commit to a quarterback until late in the season or to the run-first offense he sought by bringing in Scot Loeffler to be his offensive coordinator, in part led to a historically bad 3-9 season and left Chizik out of his coaching job after four years at Auburn.
Chizik went 33-19 in his four seasons on the Plains but after ditching the spread offense that under Gus Malzahn led to a 14-0 record, a Heisman Trophy for Cam Newton and the BCS National Championship in 2010, he made a radical change to Loeffler’s power running attack.
Only Chizik never found a featured player on offense like he did when Malzahn ran the offense with Newton and Mike Dyer.
Auburn averaged an SEC-worst 305 yards per game and finished 115th in total offense, 113th in scoring (18.67), 112th in passing (156.6 yards) and 78th in rushing (148.4 yards) this season.
“It’s not just going from one system to another,” Chizik said last week. “Those are a couple different reasons why we’ve had some struggles. It still comes down to blocking. It still comes down to running and doing those types of things. We’ve had some struggles with a couple different areas of our offense — not just the fact that we changed offenses.”
Under Malzahn, Auburn was ranked 16th in the nation in total offense in 2009, seventh in 2010 and dropped down to 100th in a down year in 2011. Despite the enormous drop from 2010 to 2011, the Tigers still managed 182.3 rushing yards per game — nearly 34 yards more than this season.
Tre Mason managed to top 1,000 yards on the ground when a five-yard run on the final play of Saturday’s 49-0 loss to No. 2 Alabama in the Iron Bowl gave him 1,002 for the season. But even after labeling Mason as the feature back and repeatedly stating the desire for him to get 20 carries, Chizik did not fully commit.
Mason (171 carries for 1,002 yards) had 20-plus carries in only three games this season — Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State and Alabama. Last year, Dyer (242 carries for 1,242 yards) ran 20-or-more times in five games, including 41 carries for 141 yards in an upset win over South Carolina.
The Tigers also had inconsistent play from the quarterback position all season.
Kiehl Frazier started the first five games but threw eight interceptions and was sacked 18 times before being sidelined with a shoulder injury. Clint Moseley came in for three starts and showed better accuracy than Frazier, completing 63.3 percent compared to Frazier’s 53.4, but also had three interceptions to just one touchdown pass and was sacked 11 times.
By the time true freshman Jonathan Wallace was named the starter, the season had already been lost. Wallace was clearly the best of the three Auburn QBs, finishing the season 46-for-80 for 720 yards with four TDs and four INTs along with 51 carries for 152 yards.
Chizik admitted the change in offenses had an adverse impact on the quarterbacks.
“Initially, we didn’t think that it was. As the season moved on and progressed, it was evident that it was a little bit different for them,” Chizik said. “How much of that is the new system? You’ve got to think that some of it is, for sure. And just a new coach. All of those factors play into that.”
Despite the statistically bad results, Chizik said he did not rue his choice to change offensive styles.
“No, there’s no regrets,” he said last week. “We’ll go back and evaluate everything very thoroughly and see how we need to move forward.”
Moving forward on the field was Auburn’s problem this season thanks to Chizik.
Now the Tigers will attempt to do so with someone else making the calls.