On Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium the football Tigers will honor their 18 seniors. There aren’t a lot of high-profile players in the bunch, but linebacker K.J. Britt has earned All-SEC honors and Eli Stove has been a major contributor at receiver.
The group includes three starters on the defensive front–Big Kat Bryant, Daquan Newkirk and Tyrone Truesdell along with special teams standout, safety Jordyn Peters.
Stove, who has overcome a major knee injury, has been one of the most steady players on any Auburn team in recent years. The wide receiver will be making his 50th appearance on Saturday and he has 25 starts.
He ranks seventh in Auburn history for receptions with 123 and has gained 1,105 receiving yards. Stove has rushed for 554 career yards on 55 carries, an average of 10.2 yards per rush, while scoring four touchdowns on the ground and six as a receiver.
Although the Tigers are playing the No. 5 ranked team in the country this week, beating Texas A&M doesn’t offer the same type of challenge the Tigers faced last week at Alabama. If Auburn plays well the seniors will have a solid chance to win their final home game.
A big key to a potential victory for the Tigers this week is getting the ground attack going again after finishing the Alabama game down three of the original starters on the offensive line and a less than full speed Tank Bigsby.
After struggling to a 1-2 start away from home, Bruce Pearl’s young basketball team will try to take a step forward in a variety of areas on Friday night in the home opener vs. South Alabama.
Going into the season it was expected this senior-less group with no returning starters would have growing pains, but the lack of experience issue has been compounded with the top-ranked recruit on the team, point guard Sharife Cooper, not available due to a question about his eligibility. When the Tigers may get Cooper on the court is unclear.
In other news and notes:
• As was the case in football as well as fall soccer and volleyball matches, the SEC has decreed that the 2021 gymnastics regular season will include only intra-league competitions. The Tigers will open their season on January 8th vs. defending SEC champion Florida at Auburn Arena, where the capacity is expected to be limited to less than 2,000 fans as is the case with basketball.
• On the subject of gymnastics, Coach Jeff Graba’s teams normally draw big home crowds. The 2022 season will probably be the toughest ticket in program history when six-time U.S.A. National Team member Sunisa Lee becomes a Tiger.
A member of the gold medal team at the 2019 World Championships in Germany, Lee’s long list of accomplishments includes a silver medal at the World Championships on the floor competition and a bronze on bars. Lee, who is from St. Paul, Minn., is by far the highest profile signee in AU women’s sports history.
• The AU women’s basketball team has a lot to prove. The Tigers were voted to finish last in the SEC this season by the league’s coaches and in the media poll were picked 13th of 14 teams. The Tigers have a proven standout in returning All-SEC senior Unique Thompson, Auburn’s queen of the double-double on a stat sheet, but the roster is heavily reliant on newcomers.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter