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Spring Review: Offensive Line

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Auburn’s OL improvement will set the ceiling for this team in 2021.

Syndication: The Montgomery Advertiser Jake Crandall via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Bryan Harsin’s very first spring practice is in the books. Over the next 2 weeks, I’ll take a look at where each position group stands as we head into the long summer off-season.

Post Spring Depth Chart

Left Tackle

  • #68 Austin Troxell | 6’7” | 305 lbs | Senior — OR —
  • #65 Alec Jackson | 6’5” | 323 lbs | Senior
  • #77 Kilian Zierer | 6’7” | 298 lbs | Junior

Left Guard

  • #56 Tashawn Manning | 6’4” | 335 lbs | Senior
  • #62 Kameron Stutts | 6’5” | 337 lbs | Junior
  • #74 Garner Langlo | 6’6” | 277 lbs | Freshman

Center

  • #52 Nick Brahms | 6’4” | 302 lbs | Senior
  • #50 Jalil Irvin | 6’3” | 319 lbs | Junior
  • #57 Avery Jernigan | 6’4” | 312 lbs | Redshirt Freshman

Right Guard

  • #58 Keiondre Jones | 6’4” | 345 lbs | Sophomore — OR —
  • #71 Brandon Council | 6’4” | 335 lbs | Senior
  • #54 Tate Johnson | 6’4” | 312 lbs | Sophomore

Right Tackle

  • #59 Brodarious Hamm | 6’6” | 334 lbs | Senior
  • #55 Brenden Coffey | 6’7” | 292 lbs | Senior
  • #72 Prince Michael Sammons | 6’7” | 307 lbs | Senior

Summer Additions

  • Colby Smith | 6’8” | 320 lbs | Freshman

Spring Review

How good Auburn’s defense is this fall will likely set the floor of this team. The ceiling, however, will be determined by Bo Nix and this offensive line’s improvement.

It’s pretty much the same cast of characters from last fall who never really found their groove in part due to so many injuries. I thought on A-Day they looked solid particularly in the ground game. The interior of this Auburn offensive line is at its best run blocking and that showed throughout the day.

However, there were still two concerning red flags: pass protection breakdowns and short yardage struggles. Brodarious Hamm really struggled handling Romello Height most of the day in obvious passing situations. While Bo was able to escape any sacks it’s concerning that Auburn’s first team right tackle wasn’t effective containing a backup pass rusher no matter how awesome I think that backup is going to be.

But the bigger concern for me came in short yardage situations. I’d argue that Auburn’s inability to convert 3rd or 4th and shorts over the past two seasons along with their redzone rushing struggles have been a bigger road block to the Tigers success than their pass protection. If you are going to be a downhill, physical, run first program, you better be able to get 3 yards when you absolutely have to. Auburn hasn’t been able to do that in recent seasons and couldn’t on A-Day against the Tigers backup defense.

It’s unlikely the first team offensive line we saw on A-Day will be the Tigers starting five this fall. Brandon Council was arguably Auburn’s best lineman last season before going down with an injury. He missed all of spring recovering from his injury and will be back to compete for a starting spot this fall. He has played everywhere in his career so Auburn’s new coaching staff has some flexibility with where to play him. I think returning to left guard is the best bet but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear him get some looks at offensive tackle or even center.

Alec Jackson was part of the mysterious missing contingent at A-Day, two of which have already transferred out of the program. It makes you wonder if we’ve seen the last of the former defensive tackle turned offensive lineman. While he undoubtedly struggled last fall, he has experience playing left tackle in the SEC and on a roster with limited OTs losing him would be a blow.

I imagine Bryan Harsin, Mike Bobo, and Will Friend are keeping a close eye on the portal over the coming weeks to see if any starting caliber tackles jump in. However, I should note that Auburn only has 3 spots left and it appears one will go to a safety if the Tigers can land Donovan Kaufman and another could go to a defensive tackle as Auburn is pursuing UAB transfer Tony Fair. That would leave just one spot left to bring in RB depth or OL help. It will be interesting to see what they decide to do with that final spot.

Finally, looking at the depth chart it’s abundantly clear the Tigers need to sign a very large offensive line class this recruiting cycle. While all could return due to the one free COVID year, it’s a bit concerning to see 8 seniors listed and only two incoming true freshman. In fact, Auburn right now only has five under class men to eleven upper. We all know the hole in the roster Malzahn left up front but it becomes even more jarring seeing the numbers broken down. Will Friend has the hardest job on the staff right now.

War Eagle!