All things considered, including the large number of walk-ons involved in the proceedings, Auburn’s annual A-Day intrasquad scrimmage was well-played. Spring games can often get quite sloppy, but for the most part there wasn’t much of that type of football on display at Jordan-Hare Stadium last Saturday.
Coach Bryan Harsin seemed genuinely pleased with the progress his team made. The Tigers wrapped up their 15 days of spring drills with a turnover-free affair that was played with a good bit of energy and produced no additional injuries.
All of those are good things unless, perhaps, you are Defensive Coordinator Jeff Schmedding or part of his staff that has been emphasizing forcing more turnovers all spring.
Highlights on defense in the spring included strong performances from veterans up front like Colby Wooden, Derick Hall and Eku Leota and in the secondary from cornerbacks Nehemiah Pritchett and Jaylin Simpson. The Tigers need last year’s backups at linebacker to step up and one of those guys, Cam Riley, showed the potential to do that and earned defensive MVP honors on A-Day.
Offensively, Robby Ashford, who won the A-Day MVP award on his side of the line of scrimmage, was sharp as were fellow quarterbacks T.J. Finley, the returning starter, and early high school graduate Holden Geriner. The other quarterback looking to earn a starting role in 2022, Zach Calzada, was held out of the scrimmage as he continues to recover from a shoulder problem.
Among the offensive highlights in spring were improved performances up front from Kilian Zierer, a potential starter at left tackle, who has overcome two knee surgeries, along with guards Kam Stutts and Tate Johnson. Stutts and Johnson have the potential to add much needed quality depth.
As expected, the tight ends looked good, the wide receivers need work and the 2022 Tigers have the potential to be good on special teams. Harsin noted that despite the improvement in the spring the Tigers have a lot of work to do between now and opening day, and I am sure that is an accurate statement.
The SEC is celebrating women’s sports this year and this week has the potential to be one of the most interesting in Auburn women’s sports history. The equestrian team is ranked second nationally going into the national championship meet that will run Thursday through Saturday at Ocala, Fla. The SEC champion Tigers have the potential to come home with a national championship team trophy.
That isn’t likely to happen for the gymnastics Tigers, who are in Fort Worth as one of eight finalists for the NCAA team championship. However, it won’t be a surprise if one or more Auburn athletes come back from Texas with an individual national title. Also, making the nationals as a team is a big step forward for the AU program.
AU’s top finish at the NCAA Championships in this sport is a fifth place in 1993 in a different format when six, not eight, teams qualified for nationals. Regardless of how the Tigers perform this week, they will finish the season as the fourth Top 10 gymnastics team in Auburn history.
Another Auburn women’s team having a strong season will be looking to set a school record for SEC wins in a season when the No. 13 Tigers play host to No. 29 Tennessee on Friday at 3 p.m. and No. 11 Georgia on Sunday at noon for dual matches at Yarbrough Tennis Center to close their regular season. At 18-4 overall and 9-2 in the SEC, the Tigers have a solid shot at being an NCAA Tournament regional host.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter.