September 10, 2013

Signs of the times

AUBURN | Gus Malzahn's offense is built for speed, which naturally leads to discussions about fitness and mental fortitude.

Auburn wants to move at a fast pace. Keeping up with that pace, over time, will tire an opposing defense. A tired defense makes more mistakes. Defensive mistakes lead to more yards, more first downs, more points and more pressure on the opposing offense to make the most of its dwindling number of opportunities.

When the pace is cranked, plays must be communicated quickly from the sidelines. That's where placards, approximately three feet tall by four feet wide, play their role of relaying information via easily recognizable visual cues.

They used to be so simple.

"In the past, I've done a lot of numbers and colors and things like that," Malzahn said. "You've got to kind of evolve as you go, especially when you have assistants you coach against that used to coach with you and all that. You've got to kind of keep that on the cutting edge."

The placards' purpose is simple: Give players on the field an immediate update regarding the next play, its corresponding alignment, pre-snap motion and a snap count. There are four quadrants, each with one image, and that provides a colorful complement to one or two human counterparts.

Graduate assistant Kodi Burns often communicates via gestures and hand signals. Reserve quarterback Jonathan Wallace plays a similar role at times.

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