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Auburn fires offensive coordinator amid struggles

AUBURN, Ala. | Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville fired offensive coordinator Tony Franklin on Wednesday just seven games into his tenure, pulling the plug after the Tigers' rocky attempt to adapt to his spread offense.

The 20th-ranked Tigers have struggled offensively all season after entering as the favorites to win the Southeastern Conference Western Division. They have dropped Southeastern Conference games to LSU and Vanderbilt after beating Mississippi State by a score of 3-2.

"After evaluating where we are at this point of the season offensively, I felt it was in the best interest of the Auburn football program to make this change," Tuberville said. "I'm not satisfied with where we are and I am personally going to take a larger role with the offense the remainder of the season.

"We are going to work harder than ever to make sure we consistently improve as we move forward."

It was not immediately clear who would call plays Saturday against Arkansas.

Franklin brought an offense to the Tigers (4-2) that was a big departure from the more smashmouth, conservative style Tuberville had long favored. It received an abundance of attention leading up to the season but never clicked.

Auburn (4-2) is ranked 104th in total offense out of 119 major college teams and quarterbacks Kodi Burns and Chris Todd have alternated most of the season. The starting spot is still unsettled.

Tuberville, whose background is as a defensive coach, had staunchly defended the spread offense a day earlier.

"This is what we're going run," he said Tuesday without mentioning Franklin. "We're going to run it, we're going to keep running it and we're going to get better at it. Sometimes people will say, 'Why don't you go back to doing what you did?' Well, if you do that, then you are asking for major disaster."

Tuberville hired Franklin from Troy last December after firing Al Borges, who has not landed another coaching job. Franklin led the offense in the Chick-fil-A Bowl - a victory over Clemson that heightened anticipation over the new offense - as well as the first six games this season.

But the Tigers have had troubles across the board. They rank 103rd nationally in passing offense, 105th in pass efficiency and 111th in red zone offense. They even started the Vandy game with 14 straight runs before reverting to the spread with modest results, leaving some players to express confusion over the strategy.

Franklin spent four seasons at Kentucky, serving as offensive coordinator and receivers coach during the 2000 season for an offense that finished second in the country in passing.

His hiring led to plenty of excitement among Auburn fans, and Franklin also signed Todd, who had committed to play for him at Troy. The Trojans led the nation in offensive snaps in his fast-tempo, no-huddle attack. They averaged 453 yards a game, seventh-best nationally. The tempo had never reached that pace this season.

Franklin spent 16 years at seven high schools before that, and his "Tony Franklin System" has been installed at high school programs across the country.