Auburn Spring Game 2021: Top Storylines and Prospects to Watch

Friday, April 9, 2021

Auburn Spring Game 2021: Top Storylines and Prospects to Watch

Auburn Spring Game 2021: Top Storylines and Prospects to Watch

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John Raoux/Associated Press

A new era of Auburn football is underway this spring. After playing the past eight seasons with Gus Malzahn as their head coach, the Tigers went in a different direction following the 2020 campaign, bringing in former Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin to guide the program.

After reaching the BCS National Championship Game in Malzahn's first season, Auburn has lost four or more games every year since. It also went 2-5 in bowl games during Malzahn's tenure.

With Harsin at the helm, the Tigers will look to fare better in the SEC and try to have more postseason success. They have started working toward those goals during spring practice, and it will continue when they hold their A-Day spring game on April 17 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

While Auburn won't open the 2021 season until Sept. 4, when it hosts Akron, there's still plenty of buzz surrounding the team as it goes through its offseason preparations. Here's a look at some of those storylines, along with some players to watch, as the Tigers' spring game gets closer.

Can Nix Solidify His Spot as Starting QB?

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John Raoux/Associated Press

Bo Nix may only be entering his junior season, but he already has a lot of starting experience. He's been Auburn's starting quarterback since the beginning of his freshman year in 2019, and he's been under center for all 24 of the Tigers' games over the past two seasons.

However, Nix had some struggles during his sophomore campaign, and his numbers ended up similar to those he had in his debut season. He passed for 2,415 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions as Auburn went 6-5 in 2020.

This year, Nix has a new coaching staff to try to impress. He could also have to fend off some competition, as the Tigers brought in 4-star quarterback Dematrius Davis in their 2021 recruiting class. But Nix appears to be excited for the next chapter of both his career and Auburn's history.

"Change is difficult," Nix recently said, per Jordan D. Hill of the Dothan Eagle. "Change is hard to go through, but sometimes, if you take advantage of it on the other side of change it can present an opportunity. I think that's what we have right now. We have a great opportunity with our new staff. We're all excited."

If Nix impresses during the spring and has a strong performance during the A-Day game, then perhaps he'll show that he's ready to take steps forward and potentially have a breakout year in 2021.

Who Will Step Up in Receiving Corps to Fill Holes?

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Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

In order for Nix to have a big season, there will have to be some wide receivers who step up for Auburn in 2021. The Tigers lost their top three receivers from last year in Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz and Eli Stove, a trio that combined for 145 catches for 1,755 yards and 10 touchdowns.

That means Auburn's top returning receiver will be senior Shedrick Jackson, who had six receptions for 84 yards last season. But there are other playmakers who have plenty of potential and could emerge as top targets in the Tigers offense in 2021, but they will first need to prove themselves.

"There have only been a few guys that have had some real game action," new Auburn wide receivers coach Cornelius Williams recently said, per's Giana Han. "We have to do every little thing right in order to be a much better group and continue to gain that experience."

Among the receivers who could have bigger roles in the offense are sophomores Elijah Canion, Ze'Vian Capers and Kobe Hudson. Those three combined for only 17 receptions last season, but there should be greater opportunities for them to get on the field and contribute in 2021.

So this will continue to be one of the top position groups to watch throughout the spring.

How Will New Coordinators Influence Tigers on Both Sides of Ball?

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Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Harsin has brought in new coordinators on both sides of the ball, and they should be familiar to SEC fans. Former South Carolina interim head coach Mike Bobo will be leading the Auburn offense, while longtime Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason will be in charge of the defense.

Bobo spent only one season at South Carolina after previously serving as the head coach at Colorado State from 2015-19. He's familiar with the SEC, though, as he was an assistant at Georgia from 2001-14. Bobo will look to improve an Auburn offense that ranked ninth in the conference with 382.8 total yards per game last year.

Mason was the head coach at Vanderbilt the past seven seasons, and while he wasn't able to lead the Commodores to a ton of positive results, he could be set up for success at Auburn as he returns to a coordinator role. He will take over an Auburn defense that ranked sixth in the SEC with 406 total yards allowed per game in 2020.

So while Harsin has never previously coached in the SEC, he'll have two top assistants who are familiar with the tough competition he will face, both on the field and on the recruiting trail, in the years to come. The A-Day spring game will provide the first opportunity to see how Bobo and Mason plan to implement their styles at Auburn.

from Bleacher Report

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