There’s a lot to look forward to on Saturday for Auburn fans. The return of tailgating, a full Jordan-Hare Stadium and a new era of Auburn football.
In this new era, led by head coach Bryan Harsin, anticipation surrounds many areas of the program. The defense is one of them, which is now led by former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason, who will serve as Harsin’s defensive coordinator.
While there are several questions about the state of the defense, here’s what we do know.
Mason doesn’t have any shortage of leaders on the defensive side of the ball. Chandler Wooten and Owen Pappoe were named as this season’s team captains.
The duo of defensive backs is a few of the names that make up Auburn’s core group of linebackers, arguably its biggest strength on defense. Pappoe is listed on the official depth chart as the No. 1 middle linebacker and Wooten is listed as the No. 1 player in the STAR slot.
It should be noted that Wooten is listed as second in the depth chart at MLB behind Pappoe.
The other players that make up the Auburn secondary are some familiar names for Auburn fans and some that are not. Zakoby McClain, Roger McCreary, Nehemiah Pritchett and Smoke Monday all return to their respective positions from last season.
Bydarrius Knighten is one of the many transfers that make up the Auburn defense. Knighten, who spent four years at Southeast Missouri State, is likely to make the start Saturday at safety to round out the Auburn secondary.
The departure of two-year starter and veteran defensive tackle Tyrone Truesdell, who transferred to Florida, left Mason some holes to fill on the defensive front. An opportunity presented itself to several Auburn transfers, who stepped up to fill the open roles.
And for a few players that have been around Auburn, like defensive end Colby Wooden, they’ve taken notice.
“I love playing alongside Tony Fair,” Wooden said. “I love playing beside Marcus [Harris]. I love all the transfers. Those two really stood out to me because both of them are going to come with it at the point of attack and play with knock-back, and I love that.”
Fair, a graduate transfer from UAB; and Harris, a transfer from Kansas, were both listed at the top of the depth chart in their respective positions when it was released on Monday.
This weekend’s game against Akron will be the first test for this defense as to what kind of season it will be. Fans will get their first look at the Harsin-era on Saturday when the Tigers and Zips face off in Jordan-Hare Stadium at 6 p.m.
The game will be broadcast on SEC Network-plus and ESPN-plus.