Significant movement on the offensive line headlines Auburn's 10th practice of fall camp
There's not just one, but two linemen without any previous starting experience getting reps with the first-team offense. Here's more on that, plus another position change.
Just a reminder before we get into today’s newsletter, since I haven’t said it recently: Auburn has asked media members to not report on who was out or who was injured during open practice viewing windows. If you have a question about a specific player’s status, just know that we can’t answer it. We can say who was out there, and you can draw your own conclusions from there.
With that in mind, here we go.
OL Keiondre Jones and Tate Johnson (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
The media viewing window for Auburn football’s practice on Tuesday — the first day of classes at the University — didn’t start like all the previous ones. The Tigers didn’t go through an 11-on-11 pace drill, which has been a good snapshot of where the tentative depth chart might be.
Most of the viewing window was spent on individual drills, including another ball-security circuit for the offensive skill players, linebackers and defensive backs working on wrapping up and tackling to the ground, defensive linemen hitting the sleds and edge rushers battling in 1-on-1 pass-rushing drills.
There weren’t many major takeaways from the quarterbacks, outside of T.J. Finley and Robby Ashford going first and second in drills, in that order, after their performances in Saturday night’s scrimmage. And, interestingly enough, the most accurate-looking quarterback of the four periods seemed to be Zach Calzada.
While things weren’t eventful elsewhere, some significant movement was still shown during the window on an offensive line that has been at the center of a lot of (non-quarterback) attention this offseason.
After two periods of working on run concepts off to themselves, Auburn’s offensive line put them in practice by going head-to-head with the defensive line.
And the most notable development came with who had their hands on the ball at first-team center — junior Tate Johnson.
Over the last few days, Johnson’s name has come up a lot more than usual. According to Bryan Harsin, he got first-team reps at center during Auburn’s scrimmage last Saturday night, along with sophomore Avery Jernigan.
That continued in Tuesday’s practice. Johnson was the first-team center, flanked by left tackle Kilian Zierer, left guard Brandon Council, right guard Keiondre Jones and right tackle Austin Troxell. Fellow fall camp riser Kameron Stutts also rotated with Council at left guard for a significant amount of time.
Earlier in the day, Council was one of two player interviews, with the other being junior linebacker Wesley Steiner. When asked if the offensive line trusted Johnson to start at center if he won the job, Council said “absolutely” and that the unit had “the most confidence” in him.
That’s a significant rise up the depth chart for Johnson, who got more reps than usual in spring ball earlier this year. It was notable enough that he was getting second-team reps at center, and now he’s with the first team.
In his first two seasons at Auburn, Johnson has played in just one game, the 2020 blowout of LSU. He was listed as a backup left guard during his true freshman season but was absent from the two-deep last year.
But in the eyes of a seventh-year senior like Council — whose college career before Auburn happened so long ago that it seems like a past life — Johnson’s progression has been legit.