The first depth chart of the Bryan Harsin era was released on Monday as the football team enters its final week of fall camp. On offense, there were a few surprises, but for the most part it'll be experience that leads the way in 2021.
Third-year starter Bo Nix will be under center on Saturday, bringing an end to a QB competition with transfer T.J. Finley. Sophomore star Tank Bigsby will play beside him at the running back position, and is expected to be the focal point of the offense.
Up front on the offensive line are four seniors, the only exception being right guard Keiondre Jones, a sophomore. The line has been a source of concern for most of the offseason after 3 seasons of unstable pockets and inconsistent run blocking, and age doesn't always equal dominance on the field.
Still, the return of Brandon Council from injury is a major positive, as losing him late in an Oct. 24 game against Ole Miss last season crippled the unit. There's also the possibility that fans could see some mixing and matching on the line during the season, as Tashawn Manning and Alec Jackson are included as options at the guard positions rather than bonafide backups.
Out wide, the receiver room has a brand-new look dominated by youth and inexperience. Seniors Shedrick Jackson and Demetris Robertson have locked down the outside receiver spots. Jackson has largely been used as a blocking piece during his career, and hauled in just three receptions through all of 2020. He also was a limited participant in the spring.
Robertson on the other hand is a graduate transfer from Georgia, where he gradually lost his reps in the offense and posted just 12 catches in 2020. He was a highly-touted 5-star recruit in high school, and originally signed with the California Golden Bears, where he caught 50 passes for 767 yards and seven touchdowns in his only season with the program.
In the slot position, sophomore Ja'Varrius Johnson has made waves throughout the offseason, and the depth chart release means Auburn fans will be seeing him often in 2021. The Hewitt-Trussville product has yet to record a catch in his career, and has been tabbed by many as a potential breakout player for the Tigers thanks to his blistering speed and hands.
When asked about Johnson, Coach Harsin praised his consistency, an attribute that the new staff has been vocal about prioritizing.
Finally, the starting tight end role will be filled by senior John Samuel Shenker. A two-sport athlete, Shenker returned to the team following baseball season and impressed his new coaches. Ideally, he'll step into a greater role than he had under Gus Malzahn, as Harsin aims to spread the ball around in the passing game.
Overall, the lineup has few surprises in it. And while Akron can't be overlooked, it's likely that Auburn will be secure enough on Saturday that many different players will see the field, meaning there will be plenty of opportunities for backups to contribute and get game experience.
The Tigers kick off the season vs. the Zips on Saturday night at 6:00 CT.