One of the strangest offseason storylines was the incident where Bryan Harsin was almost fired from Auburn in the middle of February. He was on vacation and refused to come back to campus in the middle of the investigation. Speculation existed where Harsin had an affair with a former intern. Eventually the administration chose to retain Harsin as the head coach. Harsin and the Tigers are the subject of Today’s 99 Things.
The Auburn Tigers are coming off a 6-7 season which included a five game losing streak to end the season. Harsin saw numerous departures from the program including his offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and starting quarterback. The consistent turnover of staff and players is a reason for concern within the program but as they saying goes, winning cures all. Harsin needs good season to restore confidence in him and the program. Another losing season will put him on the hot seat entering the 2023 season.
The success of the 2022 team will likely hinge on their starting quarterback. Three former transfers are vying for the position. Junior TJ Finley is a former LSU quarterback who started three games for Auburn last season after Bo Nix went down with an injury. Finley was also injured at times during the season. Many fans will remember the Alabama game where Finley was struggling to move around the pocket. Finley only completed 54% of his passes in limited playing time last season. Sophomore Zach Calzada is the current favorite to start for Auburn. Calzada started for Texas A&M last season which included a win over Alabama. Calzada threw for 2,185 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 12 games last season. The remaining candidate is former Oregon quarterback Robby Ashford. Ashford was a true freshman at Oregon last season and did not see playing time. He is a former four star quarterback and ranked as the 12th best duel threat quarterback in his recruiting class.
The best player on Auburn’s team is likely running back Tank Bigsby. Bigsby has been a staple in the Auburn back field the past two seasons. In two seasons he has rushed for 1,933 yards and 15 touchdowns. Last year he showed his versatility by becoming a threat in the passing game. He caught 21 passes for 184 yards. The offense will rely heavily on Bigsby and opposing defenses will likely key on him. Even with the added attention many expect Bigsby to surpass his 2021 total rushing yards of 1,099.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers will need Derick Hall to remain a force on the defensive line. Hall had nine sacks and two forced fumbles in 2021 on his way to being second-team All-SEC. Hall will be joined by Colby Wooden and Eku Leota. Wooden registered 61 tackles and five sacks in his junior season. Leota did not register as many tackles as Wooden finishing with only 23 tackles but he was a force in the backfield. Leota had seven sacks and also forced a fumble.
The Auburn nonconference schedule is highlighted by a visit from Penn State in week 3. The Tigers also face Mercer, Western Kentucky and San Jose State. The SEC schedule has Auburn hosting Missouri, LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M with trips to Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Georgia. The talent on the Auburn roster is limited which could result in a rough season for the Tigers. Can Harsin reach eight wins in his second season at Auburn?