Auburn Deals with Injuries and Offensive Line Woes Heading Into Homecoming
Going into the third game of the season Auburn has already been hit with a few injuries that could become key storylines for the team throughout the season. A few starters and possible rotational pieces have been hit with the injury bug already. Starting with Seth Williams, who is currently listed as questionable for Saturday’s game vs Kent State after hurting his shoulder going up for a touchdown versus Tulane. While he is expected to be back for the teams trip to Texas A&M, the team does not want to rush the star wide receiver’s recovery.
Other injuries within the receiving corps includes Anthony Schwartz, who is still currently in a club after offseason hand surgery. He is dressing for the Kent State game but may be limited on the offensive end, he was included a bit in the offensive game plan against Tulane but had trouble contributing with his limited catching mobility. Along with Schwartz, Will Hastings is good to go versus Kent State after taking a scary hit near the end of the Tulane game. After being evaluated, the medical staff have determined that he is concussion free and will be ready to play this Saturday.
Some possible rotational players are also out with injury; they include Mark-Antony Richards, a running back who is out after having right leg surgery. Luke Deal, a 6’6” Tight End, is out indefinitely while recovering from an ACL injury. And 6’6” Offensive Lineman Austin Troxell, who will be out for the remainder of the season with an ACL tear of his own. Deal and Troxell’s size could be missed in Auburn's up front blocking struggles so far this season.
Another problem besides injuries facing the Auburn offense is the noticeable woes on the Offensive line, resulting in a stunted rushing attack currently ranked 51st in the nation. While the team tallied up 150+ rushing yards in each of their contests this season, they have not come without a handful of struggles. Auburn is only taking advantage of potential four or more yard rushes 44.7% of the time, 88th among FBS teams. Along with 18.8% of the running plays stopped at or before the line of scrimmage, with 12 tackles for loss allowed already.
Against Tulane, Auburn only managed 20 rushing yards in the first 30 minutes of playing time, causing Gus to lean more on an air raid style of offense until the rushing attack could get back on its feet. With a struggling rushing attack so far, Auburn has decided to lean on the arm of freshman QB Bo Nix. While the offensive line can look stout blocking during passing plays, currently allowing only one sack thus far, a lot of credit must go to Bo Nix’s ability to handle and escape the pressure while keeping his eyes downfield.
The trend of offensive line problems has been steadily growing since the end of the 2016-2017 season, where Auburn had the 6th ranked rushing attack in the nation, and has only declined from there. The line of returning starters in their senior year put up similar blocking numbers last season. Auburn can only look ahead to the rest of the season and hope to alleviate the struggles and get back on track to having a top rushing attack in the nation.