The Auburn offensive line struggled in 2018, there’s no if ands or buts about it. For a program that has consistently churned out high-powered offenses in recent years, the Tigers' O-line group often failed to open up consistent holes in the running game and with quarterback Jarrett Stidham constantly under pressure, there was definite room for improvement.
The unit showed promising signs of improvement in Auburn’s last few games and turned in a dominant effort in the Tigers' season finale against Purdue. However, what has Auburn fans the most excited is the potential of the unit in 2019.
The Tigers return all five starters from last year’s offensive line as well as several key backups to provide much needed depth.
Prince Tega Wanogho
Originally coming to The Plains to play on the other side of the ball, the former defensive line prospect has turned into the Tigers' best and most dependable offensive lineman.
The 6-foot-7, 305-pound redshirt senior started every game at left tackle for the Tigers in 2018. Wanogho’s obvious size and raw talent led to him being named to the all-SEC first team by Pro Football Focus in 2018.
The Nigeria native had the opportunity to go pro after an impressive 2018 campaign and was a projected late-round pick according to many draft sites. With another year of experience under his belt, however, many early 2020 mock drafts have the big tackle going in the first two rounds.
According to Pro Football Focus, Wanogho ended 2018 as the SEC’s highest rated pass-blocker, and while there are some questions regarding his run-blocking abilities, Wanogho should continue to be an all-SEC caliber player and the anchor to a veteran Auburn offensive line.
Harrell, a redshirt senior from Fairburn, Georgia, will provide some much-needed “oomph” in trenches for the Tigers.
Harrell started all 13 games at left guard for Auburn in 2018 and like Wanogho, the 6-foot-3, 309-pound guard graded exceptionally well as a pass blocker last season.
The former four-star recruit was named to the all-SEC third team by Phil Steele in 2018 and if Harrell wants to continue to improve, joining his fellow offensive linemen and returning for a fifth year on The Plains is a good place to start.
In his first year on The Plains, UMass grad transfer Jack Driscoll started 12 games at right tackle.
Going from an undersized offensive lineman prospect getting only two D-1 offers out of high school to starting 12 games in the SEC in a few short years is an impressive leap.
Coaches and players have praised Driscoll’s skills and "freak athleticism" since he arrived last year and as the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Connecticut native enters his second year as a starter for the Tigers, expect to see steady improvement.
The fourth straight redshirt senior on this list (are you starting to see a pattern?), Horton started all 13 of the Tigers' games in 2018 at right guard opposite of Harrell.
At 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds, Horton is a big mauler of a guard up front. The Atlanta native should be able to use that size to improve, especially in the passing game where Horton admits he allowed too much pressure to get to the quarterback.
Regardless, Horton — and the rest of the offensive line — come into 2019 with a chip on their shoulders.
“I don’t even think that’s a question — we definitely have a chip on our shoulders. A lot of the blame was placed on us last year and so I definitely feel like we have a chip on our shoulders,” Horton said earlier in the spring. “But then again, we can’t really sit there and think about last year. It’s about a new year, this is a new season, this is a new team so that’s what I say about that.”
The fifth player on this list and the fifth redshirt senior, Kim started all eight games that he played in at center. The former four-star recruit struggled at times in 2018 and a lingering injury saw the Buford, Georgia native miss five games.
However, after coming back for the Tigers' final five games, Kim looked strong. He'll try to take his experience in 2019 and improve at a position that has been a question mark for the Tigers in recent years.
Barring another injury, Kim is very likely the incumbent starter at center for Auburn and although redshirt sophomore Nick Brahms also has experience starting at the position, expect Kim to hold the position down in his fifth year as a Tiger.
As mentioned before, redshirt sophomore Nick Brahms is the only offensive lineman outside of those top five players to register any starts in 2018. Brahms filled in adequately for five games in the middle of last season and should an injury occur again, the 6-foot-3, 301-pound center has the experience and skill to make an impact.
Redshirt sophomore left tackle Bailey Sharp is one of the most active “backups” on Auburn’s roster. Sharp appeared in 12 games for the Tigers last season and as he enters his fifth season on The Plains, the Marietta, Georgia native is integral to the team’s depth on the O-line.
Backup right tackle Austin Troxell appeared in every game last season. However, a recently suffered torn ACL will sideline the redshirt sophomore for all of the 2019 season and will greatly hinder the Tigers' depth at the tackle position.
A redshirt sophomore from Apopka, Florida, Tashawn Manning should sit behind Harrell after appearing in two games last season. Like Wanogho, Manning was an athletic defensive lineman prospect who made the switch to offensive line since arriving on The Plains.
Jalil Irvin is a redshirt freshman center who should be third on the depth chart behind Kim and Brahms.
Brodarious Hamm is a versatile offensive lineman who can play either tackle or guard. At 6-foot-5 and 312 pounds, Hamm should add much-needed depth to any position that needs it.
Kameron Stutts has received praise from his teammates since coming to Auburn. The 6-foot-4, 320-pound redshirt freshman is someone to look out for in the future but will be hard-pressed to find much playing time in 2019.
It wasn’t a great year for the Auburn offensive line as a whole in 2018 — especially in the beginning of the season. However, the unit looked much improved toward the end the season and if that improvement is a sign of things to come, expectations for the Tigers' offensive line should be high.
Not only do the Tigers return every single starter from last year’s team, all five starters will be redshirt seniors, giving Auburn the most veteran offensive line in the country.
And while experience doesn’t always mean success, five senior starters on the front line is something every coach would want.
Led by all-SEC caliber players in Wanogho and Harrell as well as an expected improvement in the running game, expect to see noticeable improvement for the unit in 2019.