Bryan Harsin’s first spring practice is nearly complete at Auburn, the Tigers would welcome 25,210 fans inside Jordan-Hare Stadium to watch the annual A-Day game. With it being Harsin’s first year on the plains and all new offensive and defensive playbooks there would be lots to learn from Harsin’s “first” game at Auburn. Team Auburn, both 1st Team Offense and Defense, beat Team Tigers, both 2nd Team offense and defense, 17-3.
Below is The Patrick Party’s Three Biggest Observations From Bryan Harsin’s First A-Day.
The Veteran-Heavy Defense Under Coach Mason Shined
After an uncharacteristic, disappointing 2020 season for the Auburn defense, the Tigers looked to turn a new leaf under new Defensive Coordinator, Derek Mason. Between Mason’s new schemes and a large group of returning starters that goal certainly seems more than attainable. Mason’s side of the ball held the 2nd team offense to just 99 yards through the air and 23 on the ground. One of the key problems of the 2020 defensive unit was the 3rd down defense in which the Tigers allowed their opponents to convert 50.31 percent of the time (82-163). Today on the other hand, the 1st team defense only let the 2nd team offense convert one first down on 3rd down (1-8). The defensive line, another low point during the 2020 campaign, was able to make three sacks for a total of 16 yards and five tackles for loss for 18 total yards. The defense is certainly not a finished product yet with key transfer portal additions, Dreshun Miller (a cornerback from West Virginia) and Andrew Leota (a defensive lineman from Northwestern), still set to join the team at the beginning of summer workouts. There is still a lot of time until the 2021 season begins and the 1st team defense was playing the 2nd team offense, but the defense looks like it will be back in a major way in Derek Mason’s first year as defensive coordinator at Auburn.
Running Backs Could Make An Impact in Multiple Ways in '21
Tank Bigsby was Auburn’s offensive player of the year last season and there is no doubt that he, along with Shaun (Xavier Mckinney’s Helmet) Shivers, will be a major focus of the 2021 offense. Both of the star running backs combined for 119 yards of offense and one touchdown during today’s A-Day Game. A new wrinkle in this Harsin/Bobo offense is including the running backs in the passing game too. During the entire 2020 season, Tank Bigsby was targeted a total of 13 times in the passing game. Today Bigsby was targeted three times for 22 yards. Simple math (3 Targets times 13 game season) will tell you that 39 targets for the 2021 season would be a dramatic step up from 13 a year ago. Unfortunately, it’s not that predictable but, today’s commitment to passing the ball down the field to the running backs could certainly be a key for the Tigers on offense next season. The only major concern for the running backs moving forward is depth. Once you get past Bigsby and Shivers on the roster the only other scholarship running back is Devan Barrett, who is returning to the team after sitting out of last season due to Covid-19 concerns. Auburn will need to build up the depth at the running back position as the Tigers prepare for another grueling SEC season.
New Wide Receiver Group Has Some Potential Stars
With the departure of Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz, and Eli Stove Auburn will have a brand new slate of wide receivers catching balls from Bo Nix this coming fall. The Tigers will also have a new coach in the wide receiver room, Cornelius Williams, who comes to Auburn with a lot of local experience. With all of the turnover regarding wide receivers, it provides young, talented play makers the opportunity to showcase their skills and maybe even earn a starting job come fall. Today, Elijah Canion led the way with 6 catches on 6 targets for 51 yards and 1 touchdown. Kobe Hudson and Ja’Varrius Johnson both had 2 catches for 20 and 15 yards respectively. For the second team offense, Malcolm Johnson led the “Tigers Team” with 2 catches on 5 targets for 41 yards. Malcolm’s numbers might be the most impressive of the day because unlike the first team offensive players, he caught balls against Auburn’s first team defense. The young and inexperienced wide receiver group will have to continue to improve as we get closer and closer to the start of the 2021 season if the Auburn offense wants to be able to keep up with the high scoring offenses that dominate college football.
With A-Day in the rearview mirror for the 2021 Tigers, Auburn will have one more practice on Monday to correct any mistakes from the spring game before the Tigers officially end spring practice and have a break before summer workouts.
Up Next On The Patrick Party: Make sure to listen to The Patrick Party Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or www.patrickparty.com where I further breakdown Auburn’s 2021 Spring Football Game.