The most expensive project in Auburn athletics history is still scheduled to be completed in 2022, but hope that the Tigers can move into their state-of-the-art football complex well before the opening game of that year might prove to be a bit too ambitious. Most likely the project will be done sometime in the fall.
At the official ground-breaking ceremony for the project last Saturday, Auburn President Jay Gogue thanked the board of trustees for support of the project and the donors who have contributed more than $40 million to build the facility that is expected to exceed $92 million in total costs. “It is tough in an academic institution to always get everyone to agree that we want to invest this level of money to support our athletic program,” the president said.
Representing the board, Bob Dumas, a golf star for the Tigers in the 1970s, said he believes the trustees are committed to giving strong support to both academic and athletic endeavors on campus. “As a former student-athlete, I am glad to know the construction of this project will hugely benefit our football program, it will also free up some space at our facilities to be used to serve all of our student-athletes.”
Tigers need to use early games to work out kinks
With new rules limiting major college football teams to two scrimmages and nine practices in full pads before playing a game, as Auburn prepares for its Sept. 4th home opener vs. Akron the Tigers are going to need to use their early games to work out offensive kinks. In scrimmage two, just like the previous one, the defense was the stronger unit and it wasn’t close.
It wasn’t surprising that the defense held the upper hand in scrimmage one because the Tigers are changing from Gus Malzahn’s spread offense to a pro-style under new head coach Bryan Harsin. The defense is also making a change with a switch to a 3-4 front, but it normally takes more time to install a new offensive system than it does for players to get comfortable with changes on defense.
Coach Bryan Harsin, who was isolated away from the team for scrimmage two due to a positive covid test, had to be pleased with what he saw on video of the defense from that session and was likely concerned about the offense.
In fairness to the offense, two of its main weapons, running backs Tank Bigsby and Shaun Shivers, are proven players and spent a lot of the scrimmage time watching from the sidelines to make sure they are 100 percent physically to open the season. The Tigers are hoping those guys will be difference-makers under Harsin, whose teams have a history of running the football more than they throw it.
From the Notebook:
• Auburn picked up an interesting commitment from class of 2022 prospect Tre Donaldson, who is rated a four-star prospect in both basketball and football. The senior at Florida State University School in Tallahassee is going to try to play both point guard for Bruce Pearl’s Tigers and safety for the football Tigers.
Even for a talented athlete that is an extremely tough sports collegiate double because the seasons overlap. Donaldson, who is 6-1, 190 pounds, chose Auburn over hometown FSU and Florida plus Alabama and others.
• With three other commitments in August pushing AU’s football 2022 class total to 11 players, the Tigers moved into the Top 40 in the 247Sports team rankings after being ranked in the 70s until recently. The same day Donaldson announced his pick the Tigers added a commitment from Omari Kelly of Hewitt-Trussville High, who plays wide receiver and safety. Coach Josh Floyd, who also coached former Tiger receiver/cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, says Kelly has similar football skills to Igbinoghene, who made it to the NFL.
• The 2021-22 AU on-campus sports season began nicely for Auburn when Coach Karen Hoppa’s soccer team defeated 12th-ranked BYU in front of a capacity crowd, something not allowed last year due to pandemic restrictions. Team members said the fan support helped them pull off the upset.
• For the first time since the 2016 season the Auburn football team will go into its opening game not ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Last year the Tigers opened at No. 11. In the last 20 years the Tigers have started seasons unranked six times. With the exception of the 2012 squad, each of those teams worked their way into the AP Top 25 poll during the regular season.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter.