One of the keys to success for the 2020 Auburn football team’s offense is developing suitable replacements for a pair of multi-year starters at the tackle spots.
With the Tigers expected to throw the ball more often this year with Chad Morris coordinating the offense, it is essential that quarterback Bo Nix be adequately protected from the pass rush on both flanks. One of the guys who did that well last year, right tackle Jack Driscoll, made the opening day roster for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Auburn’s 2019 starter at left tackle, Prince Tega Wanogho, Jr., was in the last group of players cut by that same NFL team, but the Eagles immediately signed the former Tiger for their practice squad. It’s not an ideal situation for Wanogho, but he will earn $8,000 for each week of the season he is on the practice squad with the possibility of being added to the 53-man active roster at some point during his rookie year.
Although it is still more than two weeks before the opener vs. Kentucky, it looks like the Tigers have figured out who their starters will be at the tackle spots with Brodarious Hamm on the right side and Austin Troxell on the left. Talent has never been a question with either one of those players, but health issues have held them back.
Troxell, a 6-6, 312-pound redshirt junior from Huntsville, missed all of the 2019 season with his third major knee injury. If he can handle the challenging left tackle spot that will go a long way towards rebuilding a line that is replacing four starters.
Hamm, who signed with the Tigers out of Spalding High School in Griffin, Ga., was diagnosed with cancer before he could enroll at Auburn. That kept him out of competition for a couple years, but the 6-5, 330-pound redshirt junior has made a terrific comeback, is highly motivated to succeed and might become one of the top players on the 2020 roster.
The tackles along with returning starter at center, Nick Brahms, and whoever wins first team status at the guard spots, will be tested immediately vs. Kentucky. Auburn’s first-year offensive line coach, Jack Bicknell, Jr., probably has the most challenging assignment of any of the team’s assistant coaches this preseason to get his group ready for the opener.
The Wildcats could have one of the top defensive fronts in the Southeastern Conference this year led by supersized noseguard Quinton Bohanna, a 6-4, 357 senior, who has started 19 consecutive games. Another senior, 6-3, 244 Jamar “Boogie’ Watson, is back after making 6 1/2 quarterback sacks last year.
Coach Mark Stoops has revived Kentucky’s program and a big reason the Wildcats have made four consecutive bowl trips is the performance of their big guys up front. One of the strengths of the 2020 UK roster is the experience on the offensive line so Auburn’s big guys on both sides of the line of scrimmage will need to be ready to play well on Sept. 26th when the Wildcats show up at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter