Bryan Harsin vows to re-evaluate Auburn football. AU brass should, too | Toppmeyer

Blake Toppmeyer
USA TODAY NETWORK
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Sixteen games into Bryan Harsin’s term as Auburn’s football coach, he’s going back to the drawing board. He better find some answers quickly, because this isn’t working.

Harsin vowed to re-evaluate the quarterback rotation after Auburn (2-1) delivered its worst performance of his tenure in a 41-12 loss at home to No. 23 Penn State (3-0) on Saturday.

“If the plan doesn’t work, you re-evaluate the plan,” Harsin said.

And quarterback is just the start.

Harsin said he’ll re-evaluate the depth chart.

And schemes.

And playcalling.

And practice plans.

Nothing should be sacred after that embarrassment at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

“It was sloppy all around,” senior tight end John Samuel Shenker said amid a blistering rebuke of Auburn’s performance. “They played better than we did all day.”

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While Harsin re-evaluates his practice plans – talk about returning to square one – Auburn's brass should evaluate Harsin's future, because this program is floundering under his watch.

During Harsin's self-reflection, he might take a moment to ponder why his offense’s best player, running back Tank Bigsby, touched the ball just 11 times Saturday.

“We got behind, and we had to throw the football,” Harsin said.

Baloney.

Auburn didn’t hand the ball to Bigsby one single time in the second quarter, when the game was close.

When I pointed that out to Harsin, he didn’t offer a logical explanation.

"I don't know all the reasons,” Harsin said.

Auburn isn’t teeming with talent, so it cannot ignore its strengths. Going a full quarter without handing the ball to Bigsby qualifies as coaching malpractice.

Auburn won’t enjoy a talent advantage against many of its remaining opponents, leaving little margin for error. Trouble is, errors are piling up from all directions.

To borrow from Shenker’s assessment, sloppy is the appropriate word to describe how Auburn played against Penn State.

Sloppiness led to four turnovers, and AU now ranks 130th nationally with a minus-eight turnover ratio. Sloppy pass protection contributed to Penn State amassing six sacks. Sloppy discipline played a part in Auburn having seven penalties. Sloppy defense yielded 477 yards of Penn State offense, the second-most allowed in Harsin’s tenure.

Harsin explained the result by pointing to three areas:

  • Turnovers
  • Poor tackling
  • Red-zone woes

Yep, that’ll do it.

“Some guys, I don’t think we have super mature guys in some areas,” Shenker said. “That’s something we try to work on, but hopefully this opens their eyes.”

Harsin’s quarterback experiment imploded. He’s used backup Robby Ashford as a run-first wrinkle, but Ashford’s insertion into drives interrupted momentum.

Starter T.J. Finley connected with Landen King for a 24-yard gain on third down to bring the Tigers past midfield in the second quarter.

Instead of letting Finley feed off of that big gain, Harsin parked him on the sideline for the next two plays while the offense reversed with Ashford at the wheel.

Progress should be the goal for every second-year coach, but this stinker pointed to regression.

“A lot of self-reflection needs to happen with every guy on the team,” Shenker said.

That should include the coach.

Harsin’s approach isn’t working, and nothing suggests he knows how to fix this.

If Harsin can’t solve this soon, this sloppy mess will become someone else’s problem.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. 

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