When Gene Chizik hired Scot Loeffler as his offensive coordinator, the implications seemed to be clear to most observers: "Oh, he's going to be switching to a pro-style offense". Loeffler is best known for the quarterbacks he helped develop under Lloyd Carr at Michigan, all of whom were traditional pocket passers.
It might not quite be so cut and dried, though. Loeffler spent two years on Urban Meyer's staff at Florida, and he was Temple's offensive coordinator last year under Steve Addazio. That makes for three consecutive years of working in a spread option environment, or at least two-out-of-three with whatever the mess than was UF's 2010 offense was sandwiched in between.
In last week's SEC coaches conference call, a reporter asked Chizik if the team had gotten its offensive identity figured out. He replied that they had "closed the gap on our identity and what it is that we want to be able to do". He followed that by essentially saying that the system will suit the quarterback who's out there in order to put the signal caller in the best situation for success. He cited Loeffler's dual backgrounds in the pro set and spread and said the staff would come up with its own system.
On the day of, I commented on Twitter that it sounded like Chizik wasn't quite sure what his offensive system will be. A few Auburn fans replied saying it wasn't him being uncertain but rather cagey about what they plan to do. That's probably a better explanation, but it doesn't tell us what precisely Auburn will run on offense this fall.
Beyond the conference call comments, we've seen a few clues dropped. In a Q&A, Loeffler made the following comments about his style and philosophy:
I tell you, whenever you look at defenses today, particularly across this conference, they’re as good as they come. To pigeonhole yourself in one area, or style of play, it’s really hard to move the ball. I think the evolution, and the way things are going, is people are trying to be as diverse as they possibly can...
Protect the ball and run it. The foundations and the core values of football have not changed. Some plays are exciting and all that, but at the end of the day, it’s protecting the football, running the football and staying on schedule. To stay on schedule, you’ve got to throw the ball...
Really, at the end of the day, the reason for being multiple, first off, is that it gives you the ability to adapt to your personnel, adapt to injuries, adapt to what the defense gives you. To answer your question, when you’re multiple, you can adapt to what your guys do best.
These comments really reflect his background. In particular the middle quote could have come from Meyer or Addazio, especially the part about "staying on schedule" (which refers to avoiding second- and third-and-long situations). What these quotes here and some I didn't excerpt say is that the system will be predicated on running the ball and steeped in the ways and terminology of NFL offenses.
In an interview, Chizik got more specific:
Chizik said the biggest differences in the offense will be much more frequent huddles and two-tight end formations and fewer shotgun snaps.
"Other than that, football is football," he said. "Is that more of the standard in people's eyes? Yeah, because you're not no-huddling every snap and you're not fast-pacing every snap. But you've got to remember, we didn't fast-pace every snap last year. That's the image and that's kind of the impression but we didn't do that every snap. We didn't do it in 2010; we didn't go fast every snap."
Well, about as specific as coaches get in the offseason. Gus Malzahn is gone, and so are most of the hallmarks of his offense.
So after all of this, just what will Auburn's offense look like? My best guess is that it will largely be a pro-style scheme with some spread offense concepts mixed in. From there, it will depend on whether the mobile Kiehl Frazier or the not-so-mobile Clint Moseley is taking the snaps. The former will probably get to run some zone read option and have planned roll outs, while the latter will largely stay in the pocket.
The only question I really have left is regarding just how "multiple" Loeffler plans on being. Trying to do too many different things with the relatively small amount of practice time that college football teams have is usually a recipe for doing none of them well. The good news for Auburn is that Loeffler has been a college coach nearly his entire career and therefore knows the practice time constraints. As long as he doesn't go too crazy in this, his first time having full control over an offense, it should probably work out just fine once the standard transitional issues are worked out over the coming year.