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Auburn looking for new direction, new results under Bryan Harsin

July 9, 2021
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There are those who say Auburn is crazy about football.

And there are those who say Auburn is just crazy. If the definition of insanity truly is doing the same thing expecting different results… well, Auburn’s detractors have a point.

Consider that Auburn fired coach Gus Malzahn, who posted 68 victories in eight years as head coach on the Plains.

Malzahn’s replacement is Bryan Harsin, who has posted 69 victories in eight seasons as a head coach. Seven of those seasons were at Boise State. The other was at Arkansas State, where he was 7-5 and won the Sun Belt Conference championship in 2013.

Ironically, Harsin’s predecessor at Arkansas State was Malzahn, who was 9-3 and won the Sun Belt Conference championship in 2012.

So can Auburn, which was 7-5 last season, expect different results under Harsin? Probably not. At least not in 2021.

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Harsin will hope to get more consistency out of Nix, who often struggled in SEC play.

In fact, seven victories this season might be reason for celebration.

Harsin must replenish a depleted receiving corps, coax more consistency from quarterback Bo Nix, bolster a mundane offensive line and shore up a defense that is average at best.

He must do that with a recruiting class that ranked 18th in the nation and a slew of transfers from lesser programs.

Indeed, Auburn is looking for transfers from Kansas, Vanderbilt, West Virginia and Alabama-Birmingham to help boost a defensive unit that finished a mediocre sixth in the SEC last season.

The Tigers offense projects to be built around sophomore running back Tank Bigsby, who has All-SEC ability. But getting the most from Bigsby likely will require Nix to provide more of a consistent passing threat, especially on the road.

Nix completed just 56.6 percent of his passing attempts (106 of 187), averaged 207.8 yards, threw for just three touchdowns and had six interceptions in five SEC road games last season.

However, Harsin has a reputation as an offensive innovator and excellent play-caller.

Of course, Malzahn did, too.

Crazy, right?

Auburn Tigers

  • Coach: Bryan Harsin
  • 2020 record: 6-5
  • Postseason results: Defeated by Northwestern, 35-19, in Citrus Bowl

Returning starters: Offense 8, Defense 7

Auburn Athletics
Tank Bigbsy finished the 2020 season ranked fifth in the SEC for rushing yards, two spots behind Isaiah Spiller. 

Area of strength: Just having Tank Bigsby in the lineup makes running back a position of strength. Bigsby rushed for 834 yards in his debut season despite missing one game and getting fewer than 10 carries in four others. Diminutive Shaun Shivers is a nice option as a backup. Jordon Ingram, a transfer from Central Michigan, and incoming freshman Jarquez Hunter could get reps, too.

Area of concern: Auburn’s top three receivers from 2020 have all moved on. The most productive returning receiver is senior Shedrick Jackson, who caught six passes for 84 yards last season. He has 10 career catches. Also, the Tigers figure to go to a more pass-oriented system under new coach Bryan Harsin.

Significant losses: WR Anthony Schwartz (NFL third-round draft pick); S Jamien Sherwood (NFL fifth-round draft pick); LB K.J. Britt (NFL fifth-round draft pick); WR Seth Williams (NFL sixth-round draft pick); DE Big Kat Bryant (transfer to UCF). Eli Stove. DJ Williams (transfer to FSU).

Key additions: DL Marcus Harris (transfer from Kansas), NG Tony Fair (transfer from UAB), CB Dreshun Miller (transfer from West Virginia), S Donovan Kaufman (transfer from Vanderbilt).

Top three players

  • Tank Bigsby, RB: A star in the making. Once a five-star recruit, Bigsby averaged 6 yards per carry as a true freshman behind a suspect offensive line.
  • Roger McCreary, CB: Among the top corners in the SEC. Last season he led the Tigers with 3 interceptions and broke up 6 more passes. He also posted 45 tackles.
  • Colby Wooden, DE: Figures to improve on a  strong freshman season in which he posted 4 sacks, was credited with 6 quarterback pressures and 42 tackles.

2021 schedule

  • Sept. 4 vs. Akron
  • Sept. 11 vs. Alabama State
  • Sept. 18 at Penn State
  • Sept. 25 vs. Georgia State
  • Oct. 2 at LSU
  • Oct. 9 vs. Georgia
  • Oct. 16 at Arkansas
  • Oct. 30 vs. Ole Miss
  • Nov. 6 at Texas A&M
  • Nov. 13 vs. Mississippi State
  • Nov. 20 at South Carolina
  • Nov. 27 vs. Alabama

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Discussion from...

Auburn looking for new direction, new results under Bryan Harsin

4,250 Views | 14 Replies | Last: 2 mo ago by 4
Jbob04
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AG
I still can't believe this is who they hired to replace Gus. Also, it doesn't seem like Harsin is trying to do much recruiting.
AgOutsideAustin
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AG
Auburn will soon wish they had Gus back.
greg.w.h
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May even wish they had Chizik back
AgOutsideAustin
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AG
greg.w.h said:

May even wish they had Chizik back


Definitely little Bowden.
4
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AG
AgOutsideAustin said:

Auburn will soon wish they had Gus back.

My son is a junior at Auburn. They were all ready to make a change, but were flabbergasted at the way it happened. Nobody could believe the AD fired Gus without having his replacement already worked out.

Auburn is a top job. If they had handled it right, they could have had any number of really good coaches.

Instead, they got stuck with a third tier guy that nobody was really after.
wareagle044
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4 said:

AgOutsideAustin said:

Auburn will soon wish they had Gus back.

My son is a junior at Auburn. They were all ready to make a change, but were flabbergasted at the way it happened. Nobody could believe the AD fired Gus without having his replacement already worked out.

Auburn is a top job. If they had handled it right, they could have had any number of really good coaches.

Instead, they got stuck with a third tier guy that nobody was really after.


It was a case of split boosters. Mario Cristobal was the guy for some, but Kevin Steele (whose brother, Jeff is an Assoc. AD at AU) had concocted a mutiny of sorts to get the job for himself from the "good ole boys" boosters.

Allen Greene went out and hired someone while the boosters played slap ass with each other. He must've liked Harsin's tan in the past bc they met by the pool for the first time ever.

Allen Greene's fate is in the crosshairs now. I'd anticipate a new AD at Auburn in 2022.

Don't know if Harsin will be a success or not, but Gus was on a downward trajectory. His offense was less innovative and he failed to make adjustments. He failed to recruit and develop QBs and Offensive Line. Recruiting was failing at just about every level. He wasted some of the best defenses that Auburn has ever fielded with his inept offensive schemes and talent. His record vs. LSU UGA and Alabama was horrendous.
Iraq2xVeteran
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AG
Auburn will regret firing Gus Malzahn. Gus Malzahn led Auburn to one BCS National Championship Game appearance, one SEC Championship, and two SEC West division titles. He went 3-5 (3-1 home and 0-4 away) against Alabama, with wins in 2013, 2017, and 2019. Of course, Auburn followed up those Iron Bowl wins with bowl losses (34-31 loss to Florida State in the 2014 BCS Championship Game, 34-27 loss to UCF in the 2018 Peach Bowl, and 31-24 loss to Minnesota in the 2020 Outback Bowl). Malzahn went 3-5 (3-1 home and 0-4 away) against LSU and 2-7 (2-2 home, 0-4 away, and 0-1 in 2017 SEC Championship Game) against Georgia.

In summary, Malzhan went 8-4 in home games against LSU, Georgia, and Alabama, but 0-12 in Baton Rouge, Athens, and Tuscaloosa, with 9 of those 12 losses by 11+ points. In games against us, it's the opposite. He went 4-0 at Kyle Field, but just 1-3 against us at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Since we joined the SEC in 2012, Auburn has played LSU and Texas A&M at home in even years and on the road in odd years. I noticed that Malzahn never beat LSU and Texas A&M in the same season, but never lost to both teams in the same season either.

Last season, Auburn finished 6-4 in the regular season and was one of the 5 teams (Alabama, Texas A&M, Florida, and Georgia) to finish with a winning record in an all-SEC schedule. In their additional cross-divisional games, Auburn lost at South Carolina and defeated Tennessee. Based on that, Auburn probably would have finished 9-3 (5-3 in SEC games). For these reasons, I can't believe Auburn replaced Gus Malzhan with Bryan Harsin.
NyAggie
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Quote:

His record vs. LSU UGA and Alabama was horrendous.


Maybe against LSU and Georgia, but 3-5 vs saban is pretty damn good and pretty much every other SEC fanbase and fanbase in the country would take that vs saban

W
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AG
the Ags need to beat Auburn at Kyle Field this year.

it's way past time
4
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AG
We will. Auburn is in for a rough year.
Iraq2xVeteran
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4 said:

We will. Auburn is in for a rough year.
I agree. There is no excuse this year not to beat Auburn at Kyle Field. Auburn will lose at least 4 games this year: road games at LSU and Texas A&M and home games to Georgia and Alabama. Their road games at Penn State and Arkansas are tossups. At best, Auburn will finish 8-4 and 4th in the SEC West behind Alabama, Texas A&M, and LSU.
Agsuffering@bulaw
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Auburn is a messy place and the Guz situation was even more so.

Auburn's boosters are notorious for meddling and backstabbing coaches and each other. It would take a Bear Bryant type to get them all pulling together. Problem is that no coach of that stature wants that situation.

Malzahn has weaknesses. Maybe he maintains another year or 2, but the crash was ineveitable. His recruiting fell off this past year. He struggled to develop OL and defenses started to figure out his offense.

I respect Auburn for realizing that Gus was not likely to get them to the promised land. But, Harsin is a real gamble.
Agsuffering@bulaw
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I also agree that Auburn is in for a rough year. Harsin wants to go from that power read stuff to multiple.

To be multiple, the offense must have either a TE or FB who is dual threat enough to force the defense's hand. It also seems like too much to ask Bo Nix to consistently execute pro passing concepts. He can barely execute spread concepts.

Strangely, Harsin did not go out and get a TE from the portal. He did not get a transfer QB from a pro system. He got TJ Finley from LSU, who is big and strong but struggled.
4
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Bo Nix is a really good athlete. He is a horrible quarterback. He ought to be playing in the slot, not behind center.

But politically, that will never happen. A lot of the players on that team resent him getting the job his freshman year over Joey. The feeling in the locker room was that he got the job because of his last name, and there's something to that.
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