CLEMSON — When Tommy Bowden was hired to be Auburn’s offensive coordinator before the 1990 Peach Bowl, he did little more than serve as a fly on the wall.
After arriving from Kentucky, Bowden observed practices and sat in the coaches box during the bowl.
“But I said nothing,” Bowden said.
Bowden expects Auburn’s newest arrival — same circumstances, same bowl game — to make only slightly more of an immediate impact.
Auburn hired spread-offense specialist Tony Franklin as its offensive coordinator Wednesday, adding an interesting twist to Clemson’s preparations for the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.
Franklin’s no-huddle, pass-heavy system is a stark contrast to the West Coast offense used by his predecessor, Al Borges, who resigned Tuesday.
Franklin served as offensive coordinator for Hal Mumme’s “Air Raid” attack at Kentucky in 2000 before the NCAA put the Wildcats on probation for major recruiting violations.
Left to toil in the high school ranks, Franklin surfaced at Troy in 2005, taking an offense that ranked No. 111 in total yardage and elevating the Trojans to No. 17 one season later.
Auburn begins bowl practices Friday and will have five workouts before departing for the holiday break and reconvening Dec. 26 in Atlanta.
Clemson coaches are skeptical Franklin can quickly transform Auburn’s methodical power-running offense into a pass-happy machine.
“We’re not going to panic and abort everything we’ve practiced,” said Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who served two years at Troy (2003-04) but came to Clemson before Franklin was hired. “It would probably be hard for them to do a lot of things different.
“But I’m sure that Tony’s a good enough coach that if they let him, he’ll find some things he can do.”
Franklin told reporters he is not sure who will call plays against Clemson and said he will not overhaul the Tigers’ offense in the next two weeks.
“I just want to be there and kind of watch and get a head-start on evaluating the talent for this spring,” Franklin said. “If I’ve got a suggestion of something we could do, maybe a little wrinkle or something, that would be good.”
With that in mind, Bowden said the most likely scenario would be for Auburn to take its spread package reserved for second-string quarterback Kodi Burns and highlight that as its base set — which the Tigers did in a 19-14 loss to Mississippi State in mid-November.
Bowden said he would not be shocked if tight ends Steve Ensminger, a former coordinator at Clemson, Texas A&M and Georgia, took the reins because of his play-calling experience.
“I could see them flip-flopping and working 13, 14 days on that little part and get real good at it,” Bowden said.
“We’ll just have to guess.”
Extra points. With exam week in progress, Bowden said he would likely know of any academic casualties Saturday. As for senior linebackers Tramaine Billie and Nick Watkins — the only two players held out of practice for studying purposes — Bowden said: “I’ve been told their chances were slim to be back this year, and they were. So I don’t know.” … Offensive coordinator Rob Spence said it would be inconceivable to install his system in Franklin’s position because of the no-huddle element but said with some “creativity” Franklin could make some drastic changes.