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Auburn’s Defense Shines in First Fall Scrimmage

It was a tough night for Auburn’s offense as the defense spent much of the evening in the Tigers’ backfield.

Todd Van Emst / Auburn Football

On Saturday, Auburn held their first scrimmage of fall camp. Lightning delayed the action but eventually the Tigers were able to get in some work. Unsurprisingly, Auburn’s defense looks to be ahead of the offense, controlling the line of scrimmage for much of the night and forcing at least three turnovers.

“Overall I thought the D-line played pretty well,” Harsin said. “I thought our linebackers — they were hitting it downhill. And then there were some negative plays that the defense created. I though that front seven did well.”

“They’re really defending whatever the offense is doing, so those guys communicating, that focus, and then when the ball is snapped, really just that effort, and just being relentless to the ball,” Harsin said. “And they did a good job tonight. They created some turnovers. So they went up and got them. There were some balls thrown that they went up and got. And then I think we had a fumble, maybe two. I don’t have the stats with me but I know we had one, maybe two fumbles they caused. That to me, for the defense, and when they’re able to do that, they can create takeaways, opportunities like that because they’re playing hard, which is why it happened.”

Auburn’s first team reportedly got off to a fast start putting 6 points on the board with their first drive. Two long completions to Ja’Varrius Johnson and Ze’Vian Capers setup a 1 yard Shaun Shivers touchdown run. That’d be the last time that unit found paydirt as the Tigers front 7 harassed Nix for the rest of the night. In particular, redshirt sophomore Colby Wooden was basically unblockable and created havoc for the first team offense.

Jaylin Simpson and Nehemiah Pritchett reportedly each picked off Nix. The first by Simpson was a poor decision by Bo while the second was the result of miscommunication with a wide receiver. Zion Puckett also reportedly had a scoop and score. Put simply, Auburn’s defense dominated the scrimmage.

A number of scrimmage observers also praised Auburn’s edge players with Derick Hall, TD Moultry and Romello Height all providing plenty of pass rush. Hall in particular had a strong evening and continues to look ready for a breakout junior campaign.

Offensively, if there was a group that had a strong night it appears to have been the wide receivers. This was a position group heavily criticized during the spring by Auburn’s head coach and offensive coordinator. So far this fall, it appears Auburn’s wide receivers have made the biggest leap from the spring. Adding healthy veteran Shedrick Jackson and rising sophomore Ze’Vian Capers along with UGA transfer Demetris Robertson has undoubtedly played a large role in that improvement.

“The wide receivers tonight, I thought, really made a lot of progress, and it showed up in the scrimmage,” Harsin said. “They caught the ball well. They were able to catch and get some yards after catch. I thought they had some good plays in some critical moments on third downs. They went up and got it — and they’ve been doing that in practice.”

We know the Tigers have a strong 1-2 punch at tailback but for this offense to actually threaten anyone this fall, Auburn must show some explosiveness through the air. That obviously means the offensive line has to play at a higher level and Nix must show more consistency but it also means finding some playmakers out wide. It’s encouraging to hear this group is becoming less of a liability as kickoff nears.

Here’s a scattershot of notes & nuggets from Saturday’s scrimmage. A number of people were in attendance to watch the scrimmage and shared their thoughts throughout the AU interwebs. This is a collection of the most common news shared from those in attendance.

  • Bo Nix had a very Bo Nix like night. There were bright moments followed by poor decisions under duress. However, he still appears to be the clear top option for the Tigers.
  • TJ Finley had the misfortune of playing behind Auburn’s 2nd team offensive line which was reportedly the unit that struggled the most. That undoubtedly affected his play but he was still able to flash at times given his arm talent. Finley isn’t the same caliber of athlete as Bo though so OL pass pro struggles will affect him even more which is why I continue to believe Nix is the best option for the Tigers right now.
  • Without question Dematrius Davis had the best night of Auburn’s quarterbacks. It helps facing a walk on heavy 3rd team for the majority of the evening but Bryan Harsin called him a gamer and my understanding is that while everyone knows he can be explosive on the ground it was his ability to make accurate throws through tight windows that really excited folks in attendance. Don’t be surprised if he gets more reps with the 2nd team offense this week.
  • Much hyped true freshman Jarquez Hunter was reportedly not in attendance Saturday night. No solid intel has come out on why just yet but I don’t believe there’s anything for Auburn fans to worry about long term. In his absence, walk on Sean Jackson really shined. Jackson is a perfect example of the type of kids who fell through the cracks last year due to COVID restrictions. Don’t be surprised if he’s on scholarship in the not too distant future.
  • I can’t confirm this 100% but I believe Auburn’s 1st team offensive line from left to right featured Austin Troxell, Alec Jackson, Nick Brahms, Colby Wooden (lol) Brandon Council, and Brodarious Hamm. However, Tashawn Manning is the only OL I have seen singled out by observers as a standout performer up front.
  • Big man Tony Fair had a strong performance Saturday night and seems ready to be a big time contributor for the Tigers this fall. Former tight end JJ Pegues also generate plenty of excitements thanks to a few big time plays including a 4th & short stop. He’s probably still a year away from being a consistent impact player but he’s clearly on the path to stardom.
  • I am not sure where he starts but at this point I’d be shocked if Donovan Kaufman isn’t apart of Auburn’s starting 11. Some tough decisions need to be made back there as Ladarius Tennison and Zion Puckett continue to have strong camps as well. Very little buzz on Dreshun Miller to date and I didn’t see much about Bydarrius Knighten.
  • Shaun Shivers and Donovan Kaufman appear to be Auburn’s 1st team kick returns right now. Nehemiah Pritchett and Ladarius Tennison are also getting looks.
  • Auburn is off today but will return to practice tomorrow and have another scrimmage Friday. The focus this week will be on forming a true 2 deep. I think a lot of the mixing and matching on the offensive line will start to slow so staff can focus on building chemistry with that front. Will be interesting to see what the 1st team units look like at practice this week.

War Eagle!