Auburn sends out call for offensive help in wake of loss to USF Print
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Thursday, 13 September 2007 11:22
NCAAF Headline News

 AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -The Auburn Tigers went in search of offensive playmakers, and several candidates quickly applied for the job.
Now that freshman tailback Mario Fannin has shown his ability - and his youth - the Tigers' young wide receivers are lining up for their own shot.
``We're not changing a heck of a lot there, but we're going to find our playmakers,'' offensive coordinator Al Borges said.
His advice when the Tigers line up against Mississippi State on Saturday: ``Keep your eyes open, because we're going to find some people out there who can do some things, hopefully.''
Auburn (1-1) is probably just tinkering a bit, in personnel if not necessarily playcalling or philosophy, following the overtime loss to South Florida and another unimpressive offensive performance.
But Brandon Cox could be throwing to different receivers at times, including a couple of highly touted youngsters. Maybe Fannin, who carried 14 times for 62 yards and a TD against USF, will get more rushes despite fumbling away the final two carries in his offensive debut.
Receiver Robert Dunn has moved to the outside spot, likely replacing Prechae Rodriguez in the lineup, and Borges told him to expect more balls thrown his way. Rodriguez is the Tigers' leading receiver with nine catches for 108 yards but also had two drops against South Florida. Second on the team is tight end Gabe McKenzie with seven catches, including both of Cox's touchdown passes.
Redshirt freshman Tim Hawthorne and freshman Chris Slaughter - both highly recruited players - got a few snaps in the game, and might be candidates for more action.
``They're going to mix and match some people and see what the best combination is,'' said Hawthorne, a candidate to fill Dunn's position in the slot. ``Hopefully, I'm one of them. If I start Saturday, it gives me the opportunity to show the world what I can do.''
Slaughter has impressed coaches with his good hands, even though he was a latecomer to fall camp after being declared eligible and hasn't had as much time to master the offense.
He caught a 4-yard pass on a quick slant on his first play from scrimmage. Not a scintillating start, but he's hoping for more chances.
``If I get an opportunity, and they throw me the ball, I'm going to make a play,'' Slaughter said. ``I know I am. It's not a point that I'm not going to make a play. It's just when am I going to get the ball.''
Perhaps even freshman quarterback Kodi Burns will get some action as a change of pace to Cox, though coach Tommy Tuberville said he plans to redshirt Burns ``unless we continue to have problems with our offense.''
Cox has thrown four interceptions and completed only 51 percent of his passes, but he hasn't been alone in struggling the first two games. He also doesn't think it's time to panic.
``We know we have the playmakers,'' Cox said. ``We know that this offense works. We've seen it work.''
But, he added, ``We're still looking for that real big breakout game where we find some playmakers.''
That means running the ball, too. Fannin's emergence alongside Ben Tate helped make the Tigers' running game look more formidable - if not consistent - last weekend.
``I think we had something going there for a while with the two of them,'' running backs coach Eddie Gran said. ``They fed off each other pretty well.''
But the Tigers are still rushing for just 2.6 yards per carry and 93.5 per game, and getting the runners going is a priority, too.
``It's what this offense is built on, the running game,'' Cox said. ``We run first, pass second. If you don't have a running game, you're not going to have a passing game.''
 

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