Auburn’s offensive line saw a significant improvement from last season in last Saturday’s game against Akron.
The Tigers put up 612 yards of offense against Akron, the second-highest output of offense for a season-opener in program history, and 315 yards came on the ground, with running backs Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter both topping the 100-yard rushing mark. The 315 rushing yards is also the most that Auburn has put up since September 2019.
“I thought our offensive line was solid,” head coach Bryan Harsin said. “In the run game, they did what they were supposed to do.”
In addition to an impressive output in the run game, the offensive line was also able to keep quarterback Bo Nix upright throughout the game, allowing no sacks and giving the junior quarterback enough time to throw the ball. Nix finished the game 20-22 for 275 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think overall the offensive line communicated well,” Harsin said, “which is a key component to being successful upfront.”
Heading into the game, the new Auburn offensive line featured Nick Brahms starting at center, Austin Troxell at left tackle and Brodarius Hamm at right tackle. Both left and right guard were listed as ties on the depth chart released prior to the Akron game, but on the Tigers’ first snap Brandon Council started at left guard and Keiondre Jones started at right guard.
Troxell won the left tackle position in the offseason after playing in only four games in 2020, his one start being in the Iron Bowl. The senior from Madison has had a history of knee injuries, his most recent one being in the 2019 spring game.
“He's one of those guys that appreciates the opportunity to be out there playing,” Harsin said, “because that's been taken from him before.”
His teammates and coaches have always spoken highly of Troxell when it comes to his play on the offensive line and what he means to Auburn.
“He’s definitely healthy now,” Brahms said on the first day of preseason practice. “He’s a heck of a football player, heck of a friend of mine . . . That guy deserves the world, man, because (of) everything he’s been through. He’s fought through, he’s a true Auburn Man, so he deserves it.”
Stability was a problem with the offensive line last season, leading to a drop off in rushing yards and causing Nix to be pressured more often. If the Tigers hope to remain successful throughout the season, the big uglies in the trenches will need to continue to perform at a high level.
“Knowing we can run the ball like we did tonight, that’s something we can build on in the future,” said Troxell.
Troxell and the Tigers will have another chance to show how far they've progressed when they face Alabama State on Saturday.