With college football in a holding pattern due to the coronavirus scare, Auburn’s coaches and others around the country are trying to stay in touch with their players by phone calls, text messages, social media and video conferencing.
In Auburn’s case, as well as with some other teams, the coaching staff is trying to install parts of the offense and defense through video conferencing. Good luck with that.
While trying to go over assignments and other details the Tigers would have worked on in spring training that was scheduled to come to a climax this Saturday with the now canceled A-Day game, the coaches are trying to give players a head start on learning offensive and defensive schemes until actual practices and other interactions are cleared to take place by the SEC and NCAA.
While it is questionable how much good that will do, there is no doubt that the 2020 Tigers need all of the training they can get to rebuild the offensive line.
In addition to players at center, guard and tackle needing to learn from their new position coach, Jack Bicknell, Jr., spring training was expected to feature a spirited competition for at least four starting spots.
Starting left guard Marquel Harrell and starting right guard Mike Horton were seniors during the 2019 season. The same was true of starting left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho Jr., and right tackle Jack Driscoll.
At center the Tigers must replace Kaleb Kim, who started the first eight games last season, but they return Nick Brahms, who started the final five. The Tigers also have to replace one of their top backups, Bailey Sharp, a 2019 senior who could line up at both of the tackle spots as well as at the guard positions.
With no other returning players who have starting experience on the offensive line, Bicknell and new offensive coordinator Chad Morris were going to have their hands full trying to get a rebuilt group up to speed before practice was put on hold.
Last week I asked Gus Malzahn about how concerned he is regarding the offensive line situation. While admitting it is an issue, Auburn’s head coach said having experienced players elsewhere on the offense is a major positive.
It is my take that no matter how good the quarterback, running backs, tight ends and receivers are, a football team’s offense is limited on how successful it can be by the performance level of the big guys up front and right now that is a reason for concern regarding the 2020 Tigers.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter