Ranking Bryan Harsin's 5 biggest problems at Auburn football entering Week 5 vs. LSU

Bennett Durando
Montgomery Advertiser

AUBURN — Bryan Harsin is still here, and everything is fine and normal for Auburn football.

Not actually, of course. Harsin is on the hottest seat in the country, but he's trying to handle his business as ordinarily as possible as Auburn (3-1, 1-0 SEC) prepares to host LSU (3-1, 1-0) on Saturday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN).

The Tigers labored against San Jose State, got demolished by Penn State and escaped Missouri only because of the luckiest ending of the college football season.

Entering Week 5, here are Harsin's five biggest problems.

5. Multiple quarterbacks might still equal none

Auburn's quarterback saga was supposedly resolved one week before the season with T.J. Finley named the starter. But Auburn has been spinning a twisted web since then, involving a two-quarterback system, two injuries, a fourth-string freshman and what Harsin designated a benching. Now Robby Ashford is listed alone as the starter, seemingly to stay, but it's hard to say that definitively when the last four weeks were evidence that nothing sticks on this depth chart.

"I thought Robby managed things well (against Missouri)," Harsin said. "I really do. I thought under the circumstances, and if you go back and watch the film, he did a good job. I think he made some good decisions for us. We took care of the football. I know he was really excited about having the opportunity to go out there and start and play."

4. Secondary can't create turnovers

Auburn's win vs. Missouri was a step in the right direction for the back end of the defense, particularly with the increased role of Oregon transfer cornerback D.J. James. But with the exception of James, the Tigers have struggled in coverage. San Jose State and Penn State had an easy time passing for high completion rates. Miscommunications have led to easy gains over the middle, and almost every Auburn defensive back has lost one-on-one downfield matchups.

Most importantly, the secondary has not recorded a takeaway. (Auburn's lone interception was edge Derick Hall.)

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3. No standout receivers

Eight receivers have caught passes this season for Auburn. None have scored a touchdown ‒ in four games. Yes, Auburn's quarterbacks have struggled, but it doesn't help to not have reliable receivers who can create separation. Kobe Hudson's departure for UCF stings extra right now.

2. Second-half offensive adjustments

From Mike Bobo to Eric Kiesau, Auburn's offensive coordinators (and Harsin) have failed to design any form of successful offense in the second half. It dates back to the Ole Miss game, when Auburn won after scoring 28 points in the first half but three in the second. In the Tigers' last seven Power Five games, they have averaged 0.47 points per drive in the second half. The offense has turned it over seven times, punted 21 times and scored two touchdowns in those seven halves.

"The second half, in those areas, we’ve got to be better. I think that’s an obvious statement there," Harsin said. "What are the reasons behind that? I think both sides adjust a little bit so it comes back to we’ve got to make some better adjustments."

1. The offensive line

The starting center is out for the season. The backup center is out for the season. He was struggling anyway. Auburn quarterbacks were pressured on more than 60% of dropbacks vs. Penn State, exposing abysmal pass protection. Then the run blocking took the stage against Missouri. Auburn running backs carried 18 times between the tackles for a grand total of 20 yards.

"We've got to figure that out, the best five, what that's going to look like," Harsin said. "And there might be some rotation in there."