I understand exactly where Auburn coach Gene Chizik is coming from when he says he’d rather his running backs carry the bulk of the load in the Tigers’ running game.
For one, he doesn’t want Cameron Newton limping to the line of scrimmage by the sixth game of the season. Remember, Auburn plays 11 straight weeks before getting a bye.
And for any running game to be effective, you’ve got to spread the wealth. The most successful running games typically incorporate several different guys.
But when you have a quarterback like Newton -- a 6-6, 250-pound guy who can run, who doesn’t mind running and can paralyze defenses with the run/pass option when he’s flushed out of the pocket -- it’s the kind of thing that opens up all sorts of possibilities for the offense.
This is what Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn envisioned when he first saw Newton on tape.
The Tigers got by with Chris Todd at quarterback last season, and Todd was solid. But he couldn’t move, which limited some of the things Malzahn could do.
He’s not limited now, and you’re going to see a lot more from this Auburn offense as the season progresses.
“Coach Malzahn has built this offense to take whatever the defense is giving you,” Newton said. “Whether it’s a short pass or me running, we’re going to take every single thing the defense is giving us.”
In his first two games, Newton has 33 rushing attempts. Not all of those are designed runs. The beauty of having Newton back there at quarterback, especially with such a strong arm, is that his ability to scramble takes some of the stinger out of defenses.
You’re constantly guessing when he breaks the pocket is he going to keep it, or is he going to cut it loose down the field?
Even when the play breaks down, Newton is a threat.
“He’s gotten some mileage out of some plays that aren’t there,” Chizik said.
Interesting enough, Newton has also thrown the ball 33 times in his first two games. There may be times that he throws it that many times in one game.
“The best thing about this offense is that it doesn’t take much to change,” Newton said. “We’re ready for whatever game the defense wants to play.”
With Mario Fannin nursing an injury, it sounds like freshman tailback Mike Dyer could get the start Saturday against Clemson. Clearly, the Tigers have confidence in Dyer to be able to carry the rushing load.
It suits Newton just fine, too, if Dyer emerges as the centerpiece of the Auburn running game.
However it shakes out, Newton’s not going to change the way he plays. If he needs to take on a linebacker, he will. He won’t take unnecessary hits, but he also won’t shy away “playing football” when the situation warrants it.
“I would rather run the ball 15 times in a game rather than leaving a game that we’d not had the productivity I wish we’d had and said, ‘I wish I would have run it more,’ ” Newton said. “I’d rather be in the situation I have been.”