Two weeks from Saturday is Auburn football, which means as of this moment we’re sixteen days and some odd hours away from the dulcet tones of Ric “Fans Outside the Stadium” Smith ushering you into the warm and muggy early September confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Bryan Harsin and his band of merry spuds are working hard to put together a football team for the 2022 season, and while we’ve got plenty of smoke concerning different facets of the squad, we’re having to piece together the full picture ourselves.
Quarterback. Huh. You would’ve thought that Zach “Bama Killer” Calzada would have been the easiest choice for this job, but we’ve been hearing that his accuracy in practice has been iffy. Has he been missing passes? Word is, lots!
T.J. Finley is the de facto returning starter, and he seems to have the support of the team, and a command of the offense, even if maybe he only really has the escapability X-factor we’re looking for when he’s riding a moped. Still, the Harsin/Kiesau offense isn’t one that requires a super mobile guy at QB, and if Finley has taken the steps necessary, then let’s give him what he needs to beat Penn State.
There’s also Robby Ashford and Holden Geriner. Ashford may actually be second on the preliminary depth chart based on which intel you read, and he may be closer to number one if not for his crucial turnover in the last scrimmage. Letting him go live at some point, or getting some snaps with the first team against either Mercer or SJSU could help his case.
Tailback seems to be set. Tank is better, he’s a leader, and we’ll have experienced Jarquez Hunter, slimmed down thicc boy Sean Jackson, and Damari Alston, who showed out during the first scrimmage with a couple scores and some tough running.
Auburn returns a ton of guys at tight end/H-back, including RECORD-SETTER John Samuel Shenker and his 33 catches from 2021. We also have Luke Deal, Landen King (who is moonlighting as a receiver), and then a very interesting, if unproven, group of wideouts.
Shedrick Jackson may finally be ready to be a star receiver, but he might not need to be. Camden Brown has been the talk of the town, and at 6’3, 190 he could end up as another Sammie Coates type of player on the outside.
I have watched 2 reps by Camden Brown & am about ready to award him the Biletnikoff— AUNerd (@AUSportsNerd) August 5, 2022
He scored a touchdown in the scrimmage, has been in everyone’s practice leaks every day, and seems to be a true freshman that’ll be in the rotation for catching passes. Other than him, Ja’Varrius Johnson returns after a brief date with the transfer portal, and he’s been very much as slippery as he was last season. Add in Koy Moore, who’s mostly an unknown quality, but was good enough for LSU, then Auburn has an extremely unsung, but potential-laden, group of receivers.
Offensive line is where it gets interesting. The number of combined starts between the presumed starting five (or any number of combinations you can think of) is astronomically high. It’s a group of elder statesmen blocking for the backs. Brandon Council is working on a doctorate, and we’ve got four tackles that you could figure into a starting lineup without bursting a blood vessel. At center it gets interesting only when you consider the recent news that Nick Brahms is having some trouble. He’s gone through injuries, and may have some lingering effects that have pushed Tate Johnson into that role, with Council also getting a little work in the middle. They’re not as talented as some of the defensive lines they’ll face, but with this level of experience, you hope they can hold their own enough to make things matter against the Bamas, Georgia, and A&Ms of the world.
Defensively, you’re going to see a good unit. That’s just the way it is. Up front, Colby Wooden, Derick Hall, and Eku Leota are going to be worthy of an upper-third ranking in the conference as a defensive line. Add in guys in the middle like Marcus Harris, and incoming dudes like Jayson Jones and Jeffrey M’ba, and there are plenty of reasons to like the frontline group.
Linebacker will be a fun group if they can avoid injury. Owen Pappoe, Wesley Steiner, Cam Riley... we should be set with the first few dudes, but behind them it gets thin. And in the backfield, Jaylin Simpson is going to be the next corner drafted for Auburn in this fun little stretch of talented defensive backs.
AND at everyone’s favorite position, Anders Carlson comes back for a final turn at kicker, with Ft. Payne’s own Alex McPherson backing him up.
We’ve looked at the schedule previously, and here we end up with a supposition regarding the importance of certain games. There’s nobody on this schedule aside from Bama, Georgia, and A&M that you think is head and shoulders above Auburn in talent, if above the Tigers at all. We’ll be 2-0 with Penn State coming to town, and that game turns into an early-season lynch pin for 2022. Win, and Auburn can likely roll into Athens at 5-0. You’re hoping to see an 8-4 season at that point at worst.
There’s another scrimmage tomorrow, with a supposed depth chart coming out next week. Stay tuned.