Todd Van Emst/ AU Athletics
Talking season is almost over! College football is finally here! Week 0 is one of my favorite new CFB traditions. The slate on Saturday was the perfect appetizer for the main course that will be Week 1 featuring Alabama vs Miami in Atlanta and Georgia vs Clemson in Charlotte. Heck, what is more college football than the first score of the season being a safety?
Auburn was obviously not a part of Week 0, and they did not release their depth chart. Bryan Harsin has been pressed about releasing the depth chart. He has yet to release it, but he has hinted at it plenty the last two weeks. Since it’s game week, let’s take a guess at how the Tigers will lineup on offense.
QB1: Bo Nix
Bryan Harsin all but named Bo Nix his starting QB last week speaking with the media. “Right now, it would be Bo…” Key words, “right now”. I feel similarly to Harsin. Nix is going to have to prove he is the best option. One advantage he may have over TJ Finley is his mobility. The reports on Auburn’s offensive line have not instilled any confidence in anyone. Nix has the mobility to save himself and save plays, but can he take the next step and make these productive plays? Not chucking the ball into coverage or running around then taking a sack. Nix appeared to take a step back last year, but with a new coaching staff and a true competitor behind him, he will have to step up his game to keep his starting job.
QB 2: TJ Finley
The LSU transfer came in to Auburn saying all the right things. “I didn’t come here to be a back up.” I think that was music to every Auburn fan’s ears. While the fan base is split on Bo Nix, they all agree he needed a true back up. Bryan Harsin and Mike Bobo went out and got a good one in Finley. After starting six games for LSU last year, the Bayou Bengals decided Max Johnson was their best option and Finley hit the transfer portal. Finley has impressed in fall camp, albeit against the no. 2s. Many reports say Finley has outperformed Nix, but in the recent open practice on Saturday, which was part of fan fest, Nix was the better of the two. Finley is a true pocket passer. He can’t run. Knowing how bad the offensive line is in pass protection, Finley will be hit a lot and take a lot of sacks. But, should Bo Nix struggle early, Finley could very well be the starter when Georgia comes to town in October.
RB1: Tank Bigsby
Start the Tank Bigsby Heisman campaign now. As a true freshman, in six games a year ago, Bigsby ran for 834 yards and 5 TDs. If you are a bettor, take the over for both of those this season. Bigsby is the best running back Auburn has had since Kerryon Johnson, and I would say he is the best since Carnell Williams, who is coaching him by the way. Tank will be the focal point of this offense. The Auburn offense will go as far as Tank can carry them on his back.
RB2: Shaun Shivers
Senior Speedster Shaun Shivers will backup Tank Bigsby in 2021. (Sorry I had to see how many words that started with S I could use.) Shivers’ experience gives him the edge over talented freshman Jarquez Hunter. Shivers has shown flashes of greatness over his career at Auburn, but many fans, myself included, felt Gus Malzahn did not use him to all his strengths. He has been used as the speedster running jet sweeps for Malzahn. It looks Harsin and Bobo are going use him as a downhill, physical runner, which he is. With Tank and “Worm”, Auburn has one of the best 2-deep running back rooms in the SEC in 2021.
WR1: Demetris Robertson
The Wide Receiver position has been highly scrutinized all throughout Fall Camp. The coaching staff and fans have been waiting and hoping someone would step up and be the number one target. It has been widely publicized that Auburn returns less than 10% of production at the position from 2020. Plenty of talent, little to no experience. Auburn is turning to former Cal Bear and Georgia Bulldog Demetris Robertson to lead the position group. Robertson was a freshman All-American at Cal, but struggled to breakout for Georgia. This has many Auburn fans worried, but Robertson was never the number one option at UGA. He comes to Auburn with more experience and more reps and more accolades than any other receiver on Auburn’s roster. He has the pedigree, and he has shown it since showing up late to fall camp. Look for Robertson to make an impact on special teams as well; he was fielding punts in the latest open practice and he returned a few kicks for Georgia.
WR 2: Elijah Canion
This has been one of the tightest competitions in all of camp for Auburn. I give the edge to Canion because of his breakout in the Citrus Bowl, and the injury Zevian Capers suffered in the same game. Both Canion and Capers have gotten good reviews in camp, but since Capers missed the spring rehabbing from foot surgery, I think Canion is just a little bit ahead of Capers. Auburn has a lot of depth and youth at wide receiver, so I anticipate they will ride with the hot hand all year at the position. For Week 1 against Akron, it will be Elijah Canion lined up opposite Demetris Robertson.
TE 1: John Samuel Shenker
Another position that will be a revolving door for Auburn on offensive will be the tight end position. Mike Bobo values experience in the SEC, so I think he will pencil in senior John Samuel Shanker in as his starting tight end. Auburn will manipulate this position more than we have seen in many years. Shenker will likely have his hand in the dirt when he’s on the field, but don’t be surprised to see the tight end split out as a wide receiver. Shenker’s experience, blocking ability, and leadership are why he will start against Akron.
TE 2: Luke Deal
Much like the wide receiver position, Auburn has a lot of depth and talent at tight end. Figuring out who would be number 2 was tough. I’ll give the edge to Luke Deal. Deal is probably the best receiver of the tight end group. His size is staggering: 6’5, 255 lbs. He is a mismatch for defenses. What is scarier is that he isn’t the biggest tight end on the team; that title belongs to 6’7, 267 lbs Brandon Frazier. If you’re an Auburn fan and you’re not getting excited about the potential touchdowns these tight ends will haul in this year… then you must have really forgotten how integral a tight end can be. Auburn will also throw Tyler Fromm (yes, the same Fromm) and true freshman Landen King. King will likely be the tight end they split out wide.
I’m hesitant to name any starter because Bryan Harsin and offensive line coach Will Friend have been mixing and matching all fall camp. Bryan Harsin is known to shuffle his offensive line, so I will just talk about a few linemen I expect to get a lot of playing time at each position in 2021. Starting with Left Tackle, it sounds like Austin Troxell has been the leader of the group. It’s been a long time coming for Troxell. The former 4 star out of Madison Academy has battled injuries his whole career at Auburn. He’s finally healthy and looking to take the starting left tackle spot everyone saw him taking when he arrived 5 years ago. Behind Troxell will be Alec Jackson. Jackson saw a lot of playing time last year, but is sounds like Troxell has really impressed this fall and will take Jackson’s starting spot. The good news here is Auburn has multiple guys they are comfortable with manning the left tackle position. Don’t be surprised to see either of these guys line up at right tackle some this season either.
Left Guard has been a big surprise for many who have followed Auburn throughout fall camp. It sounds like Brandon Council will start at left guard for Auburn. Council was widely considered the best offensive lineman Auburn had in 2020. Council played right guard last season, so many had him penciled in to be the right guard in 2021. It does not sound like that is the case. Behind Council will be Tahsawn Manning. The senior from Apopka, Florida will be a big contributor on the offensive line. He will have to spell Council some, and he can even play tackle if needed.
Center is the easiest position to name a starter, maybe on the whole offense. Nick Brahms is back and will hopefully start all 12 games for Auburn in 2021. He is the best and most experienced offensive lineman the Tigers have. As long as Brahms is healthy, he’ll be the starting center. Backing him up in fall camp has been junior Jalil Irvin. Irvin might get more playing time at guard this season, because he has that flexibility. I don’t imagine Harsin wanting to rotate his center much because Nix and Brahms have great chemistry.
Keiondre Jones has really impressed in fall camp and looks like he will be the starting right guard against Akron. Jones came in and replace Brandon Council last season when he went down with injury. Jones really impressed with his run blocking immediately. He needs to improve his pass blocking in 2021. Kameron Stutts will back up Jones at right guard. Another lineman that has flexibility to play multiple positions, Jones played tackle in high school and has rotated in a tackle throughout fall camp.
Brodarius Hamm will slide over to right tackle after spending much of his Auburn career on the left side of the line. The senior will look to have a great season and possibility force his way onto the radar of NFL teams. Behind Hamm will be former top JUCO transfer Brenden Coffey. Coffey was a big get for Gus Malzahn a few seasons ago with Killian Zierer, but neither have made an impact on the Auburn offensive line. Both of them will likely rotate in for Bryan Harsin this fall.
College Football is finally back! I will preview the Defense later this week and give a full season preview as well. Be sure to stay tuned here on The Crowded Booth. We have a lot of high school football coverage of the highly competitive Chattahoochee Valley. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook so you don’t miss anything!