3 key stats that show how Auburn’s O-line is powering the run game

The Tigers' offensive line has proven to be the strength of Auburn's defense -- and it could pose some serious problems for Alabama's defense.

| 1 month ago
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

3 key stats that show how Auburn’s O-line is powering the run game


Remember just a few short weeks ago when the SEC West was a battle between Alabama and Texas A&M? Yeah, about that. Suddenly LSU and Auburn look like two of the hottest teams in the country, and with Auburn still to play Alabama and LSU playing Alabama this weekend, it’s still all up for grabs in what is arguably the toughest division in college football.

The resurgence by both LSU and Auburn has been impressive, but we’re going to focus on Auburn in this article, and in particular how their offensive line has powered a five-game winning streak that has seen them score at least 38 points in each of the last four games.

It all starts with the offensive line for Auburn, and up front they have done a great job clearing the way, especially in recent weeks, for the Tigers’ running backs. The stars, if you can have stars on the offensive line, come on the right side in the form of right guard Braden Smith, and right tackle Robert Leff, but center Austin Golson, left guard Alex Kozan and left tackle Darius James and grading well through the first eight games of the 2016 season.

The offensive line really is the strength of this Auburn offense, and here are three key stats you need to know about their performance so far:

1. They are giving their running backs an average of 3.02 yards before contact on runs

That’s a staggering stat and one that highlights just how good the offensive line has been this year. Auburn is averaging 6.1 yards per carry as a team this year, but the ball carriers don’t need to worry about the first three yards on an average play because the offensive line has already taken care of that. Considering the fact that Auburn has a big bruising running back in Kamryn Pettway, the ability to give him a three-yard head start to build up momentum before taking on a linebacker has been huge for the Tigers’ offense.

2. They average 7.0 yards per carry off right tackle, and 7.1 yards per carry off right end

auburn-ypc

Right tackle Robert Leff is one of the best offensive linemen in the nation, and it shows when you look at the breakdown of how much success Auburn has had running through various points of attack. The average 7.0 yards per carry off right tackle, 7.1 yards per carry off right end, and 5.8 yards per carry on runs between right guard and right tackle. From the eight run positions from left end through right end, the runs that go closest to Leff make up three of their four most successful run positions, in terms of yards per carry average. He makes a lot of big things happen for the Auburn running game, and he does it with blocks like this:

leff

3. They don’t average fewer than 3.9 yards per carry anywhere along the offensive line

While they do most of their damage off the right side, that’s not to say that the Tigers aren’t able to run the ball anywhere else. Their “worst” run position is on runs between the center and right guard, where they still manage to average 3.9 yards per carry. To put that into context, there are 28 teams in the nation who average fewer yards per carry total than the Tigers average between the center and right guard. At every other run position, they average at least 4.7 yards per carry.

Simply put, as highlighted by those three stats, the Auburn offensive line, and in particular right tackle Robert Leff, is dominating right now, and it has helped drag them back into the race in the SEC West. They close the season out with the Iron Bowl against Alabama and the prospect of this offensive line going up against Alabama’s ridiculously talented defensive front is already worth getting excited about. One of the top unit-versus-unit matchups we will see all year, it may wind up playing a key role in who wins the SEC West. If this Auburn offensive line can keep playing as well as they have so far, they just might find a way to cause the Alabama defense some problems.

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • Mike J.

    Last winter or spring, while looking at Peyton Barber, I commented by email to Scott Reynolds of The Pewter Report how well-coached that Auburn O-line looked.Seems they are keeping it up.