Heading into Season 2, Auburn football looks a lot more like Bryan Harsin's team
The Tigers had six newcomers on their Week 1 depth chart in 2021. They more than doubled that this time around, as the head coach doubles down on his vision.
HC Bryan Harsin (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
There’s no denying that Bryan Harsin put his stamp on Auburn football during his first year.
The Tigers went from Gus Malzahn’s patented spread offense to more of a pro-style scheme that utilized multi-tight end sets, under-center snaps and even fullbacks. They moved from Kevin Steele’s straightforward 4-2-5 look to a more versatile one that could switch between two and three down linemen and multiple coverage styles at any given moment.
Harsin and his staff changed the approach to the strength and conditioning program on the Plains. They used different practice formats. Players spoke about shifting the culture under the new regime. Some of the differences clicked, while others — specifically in areas of recruiting — were the genesis of offseason frustrations.
Heading into what feels like a make-or-break second year, one that sits squarely in the context of a damaging offseason inquiry into the program and the recent departure of an athletic director, Harsin has doubled down on his approach.
Year 1 coordinators Mike Bobo and Derek Mason are both gone, replaced by two former Harsin coordinators in Eric Kiesau and Jeff Schmedding. The talk of the offseason for the offense has been about building around a strong, almost old-school downhill rushing attack. The starting quarterback has gone from a late-Malzahn Era mainstay in Bo Nix to a former transfer that the current staff brought to campus.
(And if someone else takes over for T.J. Finley, keep in mind that every other scholarship quarterback in the room was recruited by this staff.)
There are star players from the Malzahn Era who are still here and have “bought into what Harsin has done here,” as one multi-year starter said during fall camp. Chemistry and culture have been praised throughout the offseason.
All three of Auburn’s permanent team captains — Owen Pappoe, Derick Hall and John Samuel Shenker — are veterans who were recruited by the previous staff. Tank Bigsby, Colby Wooden, Nehemiah Pritchett and several others are top talents who have stayed on the Plains while others have opted for new destinations.
But with just a few days away from the start of the second season, Auburn feels a lot more like Harsin’s vision for this team. And finding the proof is as simple as looking at the Week 1 depth chart.
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