Gus Malzahn

The Tigers won’t start spring football practice until the middle of March, but that doesn’t mean Auburn’s players in that sport aren’t keeping busy as college basketball heads into its prime season and a variety of other Auburn athletes are competing.

This is the time of year the strength and conditioning staff gets extra hours to work with football players on areas they need to improve for the coming season whether it is adding speed, dropping weight, boosting muscle mass or developing more mental toughness during winter workouts.

When the Tigers hit the field again for their 15 spring practices, there will be 10 early graduates on the roster. One of the newcomers is the most highly rated prospect in Auburn’s 2020 signing class, Tank Bigsby, who has a great opportunity to contribute this fall.

Bigsby has the combination of size and big-play ability to push for early playing time. That would have been the case even if last season’s top Auburn rusher, Boobee Whitlow, was still around.

In his final high school game, a 39-35 Georgia Class AA semi-final playoff loss to Brooks County, Bigsby ran the football 26 times for 270 yards. That was close to his senior season average of 11.4 yards per carry for Callaway High School in Hogansville, an impressive number, especially for a player who wasn’t full speed for several games due to an injury.

Although his nickname is Tank, that probably isn’t an accurate description of Bigsby’s running style. He is just as comfortable trying to make defenders miss as he is with trying to overpower them.

With a new offensive coordinator, Chad Morris, and the return of D.J. Williams, Shaun Shivers, Harold Joiner and Malik Miller along with redshirt freshman Mark-Antony Richards there will likely be major competition for playing time at the running back position this spring and into the preseason and fall.

That is a good thing because the Tigers need to add more punch to a ground attack that averaged 4.7 yards per rush in 2019. That ranked a disappointing eighth among the 14 Southeastern Conference teams.

The average vs. SEC opponents last year was 4.3 yards per carry, which ranked seventh, so in addition to improving the passing game there is plenty of room to get more productive when the Tigers run the football.

In another sport, it hasn’t taken an Auburn freshman long to make an impact. Megan Schofill finished seven-under-par over the weekend to earn her first college individual championship at the Lake Oconee Invitational. She posted rounds of 73, 68 and 68 as the Tigers took the team championship at eight-under-par, 26 strokes ahead of runnerup and host Mercer.

Schofill was one of the top high school golfers in the country when Coach Melissa Luellen signed her out of Monticello, Florida. She was a first team American Junior Golf Association All-American and last summer made the final 16 at the U.S. Amateur.

At the same time the women’s team was winning a tournament in Georgia, the AU men finished first in a 20-team event in Palm Desert, Calif. Coach Nick Clinard’s Tigers finished 22-under-par, 18 strokes ahead of runnerup Charlotte.

 

Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter.

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