2021 Previews: SEC West


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6. Tigers (5-7, 2-6)

Rankings (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr)
Quarterbacks: Av
Running Backs: Av
Wide Receivers: Fr
Offensive Line: Fr

Defensive Line: Av
Linebackers: Vg
Defensive Backs: Vg
Special Teams: Vg

No team in the conference is changing as much from 2020 to 2021 as will be the Tigers, and that could be a recipe for disaster depending on how the transition is handled. arrives from Boise State with the intent on turning from a gimmick team with a good into a pro-style team with a good defense. Schemes are changing on both sides of the ball, and in the SEC, that’s usually a recipe for first-year disappointment.

Offense: What could go right
If is going to win, it will be because QB Bo Nix was able to transition from Gus Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle to a pro-style passing attack. At first glance, it doesn’t appear to fit the skill set Nix has shown so far at Auburn. He creates well on the move, is extremely mobile and tenacious, but he throws too many bad passes and doesn’t make enough plays deep downfield. He and RB Tank Bigsby are the two strengths of this offense, but there is very little proven depth behind Bigsby. LSU transfer QB T.J. Finley gives a safety net in case Nix can’t handle the or gets hurt, but Finley struggled with reads at LSU and has fits of wildness; he lost his job midseason despite running up some impressive raw stats. Shaun Shivers, expected to be Bigsby’s backup, has a lot of speed – but does he have enough size, and can he make the transition from Malzahn’s jet sweep-heavy attack?

Offense: What could go wrong
Just about everything else. returns virtually its entire offensive line room from 2020, but unless Harsin’s pro style is a magic fix, there are going to be issues. Malzahn was criticized for under- linemen, and while size isn’t an issue, Auburn’s OL just didn’t execute very well last year. The receiver group is relatively all new with the exception of Shedrick Jackson, and TE John Samuel Shenker appeared to lose his starting in the due to fit issues in the new offense. Depth is good at tight end, though. This is a total rebuild, there’s no depth behind Bigsby at running back and the line will be vulnerable until it gains in the new platform.

Defense: What could go right
made good use of the transfer portal to bolster its secondary, grabbing CB Dreshun Miller, one of the best players on a solid Mountaineer team – and he may break camp as a third-teamer at Auburn. has a collection of tall, rangy cornerbacks, all 6’1” or over, and will be able to match up well against bigger receivers. The linebacker group is solid and veteran; depth is good there, as well. Special teams always seem to be a source of strength for the Tigers and if they can identify a new long-snapper, they should roll on with no trouble in 2021. Observers like what they’ve seen from the Tiger pass rush so far in camp.

Defense: What could go wrong
DT Tyrone Truesdell would have anchored the middle of the Tiger line, but suddenly quit the team, handing the to talented but inconsistent UAB transfer Tony Fair. will have to make up the rest of the there using and converted tight end J.J. Pegues. Signee Lee Hunter out of Prichard-Blount could wind up being one of the best freshmen in the conference if he keeps up the current pace, but then again, he is facing Auburn’s troubled offensive line in practices. The biggest issue for the entire is that it’s moving from a 4-2-5 base set to a pure 3-man front with twin outside linebackers, almost a hybrid 5-2. There is plenty of raw talent, but changing the base defensive scheme is usually good for at least one unexpected loss, if not two.

One-sentence summary: A blue-collar team that will have to lean hard on its to succeed.
Harsin has a myriad of issues at the moment: He tested positive for Covid-19 and had to miss practices. The team’s vaccination rate lagged other SEC teams badly, which Harsin caught flak for due to a perceived lack of encouragement to his players in taking the shot. Specific to football, Auburn’s continues to lag its competition. Harsin will have a solid at his disposal, and a good defensive coordinator in Derek Mason. But early struggles on offense could doom the Tigers’ season before it really even gets started.

Continue Reading the 2021 Previews: Mississippi State Bulldogs

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