Lashlee Hopes to Improve Play on Third Down
Auburn Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee (Photo: Auburn Athletics)
The final Auburn coach to speak to the media prior to Saturday’s matchup with Arkansas State, was Rhett Lashlee on Wednesday night. Many fans, and media members alike, had many questions concerning the decision making during the Clemson game. For instance, the decision to play three quarterbacks, and the rotation method of said quarterbacks. Head Coach Gus Malzahn addressed that issue on Tuesday, and Lashlee spoke on the performance of the offense during the Clemson game, as well as previewed the game Saturday with Arkansas State.
On the performance of the Quarterbacks:
Sean White, John Franklin III, and Jeremy Johnson all saw plenty of snaps in last Saturday’s loss. The rotation altered the flow of the tempo, which played a key role in the final result. Lashlee said that four plays were the difference. “Three turnovers, two were on fourth down, and we missed the touchdown throw to Chandler (Cox) on third down.” says Lashlee, “Those are plays, obviously, that we’d like to have back, because they were in the redzone.” Lashlee was impressed with Sean White’s performance, mentioning that his accuracy was better.
On the first half against Clemson:
Offensively, the gears were not turning for Auburn. Rotating quarterbacks, the offensive line had not gotten warm. For Lashlee, that is unacceptable. His message, “finish the drives.” Lashlee spoke on the red zone performance, and he feels that the offense can improve by not turning the ball over in the red zone, find ways to run the ball in for a touchdown, and to complete passes in tight spaces.
On Arkansas State’s pass coverage:
Arkansas State allowed 371 passing yards in last week’s loss to Toledo. Last season, the Red Wolves gave up 267.7 passing yards per game. This Saturday’s game could be a great time to allow the young receiving corp a chance to gain valuable in-game experience. “They are very athletic for that league (Sun Belt Conference).” says Lashlee of Arkansas State’s defense, which returns 7 starters. “They have won 4 out of the last 5 championships in that league. They are pretty confident. They have played some really good teams, really close. They are going to make you earn everything.”
How younger players will contribute this Saturday:
Lashlee mentioned players such as Kam Martin, Kyle Davis, Kamryn Pettway, Eli Stove and Nate Craig-Myers have the possibility of seeing more playing time this Saturday. Davis was limited last Saturday due to an injury that he is overcoming. Lashlee says that the only way for these offensive players to get better, is to get more playing time.
On the offensive line:
Lashlee says that the performance of the offensive line on Saturday was “ok” considering the circumstances. The line, which saw a new center, and two players playing a position unfamiliar to them, improved from the first half to the second half.
When does Lashlee expect the offense to be in “mid season form”:
With new guys, Lashlee says that by game 3 or 4, the team seems to be at its best. But with an offense that has so many young and new talent, it could take longer. But, Lashlee knows that time is valuable. The focus is now improving from game one, to game two.
On the seniors of Arkansas State:
Prior to joining the Auburn staff, Lashlee was the offensive coordinator for Arkansas State under Gus Malzahn. The players that he and Malzahn recruited, are now upperclassmen for the Red Wolves. Lashlee mentioned players on the offensive line, and receiving corp, as well as Alabama natives Blaise Taylor and Chris Humes on defense. “They are starting there for a reason, we felt like they were going to be good players. They look like they have had a pretty good career there so far.”
On the importance of getting into an offensive rhythm:
Lashlee again hit on the importance of converting third down plays. He mentioned the good plays that did not go Auburn’s way, including an 18-yard pass on 3rd and 19, and a catch by Kerryon Johnson that was ruled incomplete thanks to video review. The problem, is finding themselves in 3rd and long situations. The key is to improve on converting early downs, and “finishing drives”
On how the young players responded to the tough loss:
“They are learning real quick that week to week in our league, one play and six or seven points can make a huge difference in how you feel for a week.” Lashlee said of the reaction to the 19-13 loss to Clemson on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium. “If they weren't disappointed, didn't feel really bad Sunday and Monday, then you probably have the wrong guys.” Auburn started many young players at skill positions on Saturday, a sophomore at quarterback and running back, and played many underclassmen at receiver. Lashlee likes the chemistry of the team, and feels like the younger players are feeding off the upperclassmen.
Auburn continues preparations for their game with Arkansas State. Kick off scheduled for 6:30PM at Jordan-Hare Stadium.