What we learned from the first practice of Auburn football fall camp
Auburn's veterans practice showcased a very early two-deep, a lot of passing game work, several players who turned heads and an offensive line desperate to improve.
WR Tar’Varish Dawson Jr. (The Auburn Observer — be gentle, it’s an iPhone photo)
Colby Wooden had to sit down for a minute and collect himself before he got up to the podium.
“That sun got the best of me,” Wooden said. “Listen, I’ve went to California, Texas, Florida, you name it. I'm sorry, ‘Bama heat's different.”
The temperature climbed as high as 94 degrees on Friday, the first practice day of Auburn football’s crucial 2022 fall camp. The heat index was firmly in the triple digits.
And, like fellow defensive veteran Derick Hall, there was a real possibility that Wooden wasn’t going to be dealing with all that heat Friday. After a strong redshirt sophomore season, Wooden was eligible to enter the NFL Draft — or the transfer portal, where he could have been a highly touted pickup for another team in a better situation.
But for Wooden, the feeling of going 6-7 last season felt even worse than a hot August sun in Auburn.
“I've never in my life had a losing record,” Wooden said. “So last year, that was a tough pill to swallow. So I had to go back to the drawing board and like, 'OK. What can I do better to get myself better, not only for draft purposes, but as far as the team?' I feel like this team can go so far and do so much. We owe it to Auburn.
“Auburn, you see it,” Wooden continued, pointing to a picture from the 2013 Tigers that hangs in the back of the team meeting room. “We ain't won an SEC Championship since 2013. Like, we owe it to Auburn. And I graduate in December, so I kind of want to go out with a bang. Started with Owen (Pappoe) and Derick and Luke (Deal), all the other guys that came in with me.
“And we've just got to finish the deal. That's basically it. Finish the deal.”
Wooden, Pappoe, Hall and Deal were among the dozens of veterans who were on the field Friday morning during Auburn’s non-padded split-squad practice. Bryan Harsin and his staff basically cut every position group in half, sending mostly older players to the morning practice and mostly younger players and newcomers to a late-afternoon one.
The half-hour viewing window on Friday morning gave an early glimpse into some pecking orders at certain positions and provided plenty of opportunities for both sides of the ball to mix it up in drills. Here’s what we saw and heard on the first day of practices on the Plains.
(Note: These Observations are based on the early veterans practice and the interviews with four players — Wooden, Pappoe, offensive tackle Austin Troxell and wide receiver Shedrick Jackson. If you don’t see a player’s name, they most likely will be out there in the second practice. While we can’t share who is injured during these practices, I can say that Bryan Harsin’s message of a clean bill of health from SEC Media Days is a truthful one.)