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<p>Coach Bryan Harsin talks to his team after Auburn football open fan practice on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022 &nbsp;Auburn, Ala.</p>
<p>Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics</p>
Coach Bryan Harsin talks to his team after Auburn football open fan practice on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022  Auburn, Ala. Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

2022 Auburn Football Season Preview

Auburn is just a few days away from kicking off the 2022 season. The Tigers are looking to build on a 2021 campaign that ended with a 6-7 record and a 17-13 loss to the No. 17 Houston Cougars in the Birmingham Bowl.

Although the final record does not show it, Auburn had some bright spots lost year. Auburn was still competing for an SEC Championship Game appearance in early November before the 20-3 loss to the Texas A&M Aggies on the road.

At this point, T.J. Finley is the starting quarterback for the Tigers. Last season Finley went 70-128 for 827 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. Finley took over the starting position after Bo Nix suffered a broken leg in the second half of the Mississippi State game last season.

Oregon transfer Robby Ashford appears to have a solid grasp on the second-string quarterback position. The Hoover native did not touch the field during his one season with the Ducks.

In an offseason that consisted of turmoil within the program, the biggest win for the Tigers was Tank Bigsby returning for his junior season. Bigsby rushed for 1,099 yards and 10 touchdowns off of 223 carries last season. Additionally, Jarquez Hunter was a solid depth piece for the position last year rushing for 593 yards off of 89 carries. With Bigsby and Hunter back for another year, the sky is the limit for Auburn's ground attack in 2022.

Auburn has two solid, experienced tight ends in John Samuel Shenker and Luke Deal. Shenker is going into his fifth year on the Plains and he caught 33 passes for 413 yards last year. Deal is going into his junior year and only has 11 catches in his Auburn career thus far, but expect that number to grow in 2022 as Bryan Harsin continues to implement tight end play into Auburn's offense.

Wide receiver was one of Auburn's biggest weak spots last season. With Kobe Hudson, the Tigers leading receiver in 2021, no longer being on the team, there are a lot of question marks for the unit going into 2022. Senior Shedrick Jackson is likely going to be Finley's first option. He had 40 catches last year, good for 527 yards and one touchdown. 

Tar'Varish Dawson Jr. has not wasted any time impressing the coaching staff as he is listed as Auburn's second receiver going into his freshman year. Finally, Malcolm Johnson Jr. rounds out the projected starting receiving corps. Johnson is going into his junior season, and had six catches for 82 yards and a touchdown last year. Camden Brown, Ja'Varrius Johnson and LSU transfer Koy Moore will provide depth in the receiving corps.

It was announced earlier that veteran center Nick Brahms will be retiring from football. Brahms battled injuries for most of last season and missed the bowl game as well as spring practice. 

"He tried after last season, he had the injury going into the bowl game and then came back and just not there physically to be able to go out there and play and to play at the level he wants to play at," said Bryan Harsin. "Nick has been at every practice. He has helped our players out. He has helped the O-line out. He'll continue to keep doing that."

Brahms will be missed by Auburn, but former four star recruit Tate Johnson will be taking over at center. 

"Tate can do it," Harsin said. "He can go out there and make the calls. He can see the field. And he can move."

Auburn's offensive line from left to right will be Kilian Zierer, Brandon Council, Tate Johnson, Keiondre Jones and Austin Troxell. With the exception of Johnson, this unit has a lot of experience. That will be a valuable thing this season. 

The defense is Auburn's stronger-looking unit at first glance. The Tigers are returning five starters and the remaining six spots are filled with talent as well. 

The defensive line will have Derick Hall and Colby Wooden on the edges. Hall had nine sacks and two forced fumbles last season. Wooden had five sacks and recorded one fumble last season. Dylan Brooks and Morris Joseph Jr. can be expected to play at defensive end as well.

Jayson Jones and Marcus Harris will fill the interior of the defensive line for Auburn. Jones is an Oregon transfer and 19 total tackles as well as 1.5 sacks for the Ducks last year. Harris had 27 total tackles, two sacks and one fumble recovery last season. Marquis Burks and Jefferey M'Ba will definitely get some time as well.

Auburn's linebackers will be Eku Leota, Owen Pappoe and Cam Riley. Leota played an important depth role last season, recording 23 total tackles, seven sacks and one forced fumble. Pappoe was battling injuries for the majority of last season, but he is so valuable to this defense when he is healthy. When he was fully healthy in 2020, he recorded 93 total tackles, four sacks and one interception. Riley only saw action in five games last year but managed to record 14 tackles. He is expected to take a big jump this season and play a big role for this defense. Marcus Bragg, Wesley Steiner and Eugene Asante will provide depth at linebacker.

Nehemiah Pritchett and Jaylin Simpson will start for the Tigers at cornerback. Pritchett and Simpson both recorded 27 tackles and one interception last season. Keynote Scott, J.D. Rhym and D.J. James will also get playing time at cornerback.

Zion Puckett and Donovan Kaufman will be Auburn's starters at safety. Puckett recorded 48 tackles last season. Kaufman recorded 33 tackles, one sack, forced three fumbles, and one interception. Craig McDonald, Marquise Gilbert and Cayden Bridges will provide depth at safety. 

Special teams will look almost identical to last season. Anders Carlson and Oscar Chapman are back at kicker and punter. Jacob Quattlebaum is back at long snapper. Ja'Varrius Johnson and Keynote Scott will return punts. Jarquez Hunter and Nehemiah Pritchett will return kickoffs. 

There are a lot of questions for the Auburn Tigers in 2022, but we will have them answered soon enough.


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