In any offseason, there is always roster movement on a football team, and with former head coach Gus Malzahn parting ways with Auburn and Brian Harsin stepping in to take the reins, the situation has caused for turnover not only on the staff but through the locker room as well.
Following what was certainly one of the most unpredictable seasons in college football, the future of many players was left up in the air as well.
With the NCAA announcing that seniors from 2020 could return for another season, the door was opened for players who formerly had to go to have the opportunity to stick behind and play alongside their teammates once more.
However, despite the open door, not every player decided to return. Whether players feel that their chances are better vested in the National Football League, or they don’t see much playing time in their future with Auburn, several players have decided not to return for the 2021 season.
The decisions for some Tigers started back in December when running back Mark-Antony Richards entered the transfer portal. Along with Richards, senior linebacker K.J. Britt announced that he would be entering the NFL Draft. Richards only saw action in three games last season, with 20 rushing attempts for 76 yards. Britt saw action for Auburn all four years, but was limited to only two games his senior season before having to undergo surgery for a torn ligament in his thumb. There was some hope that he might return towards the end of the season, but he was unable to and chose to head to the pros rather than return for a fifth season.
Two days into the new year, wide receiver Anthony Schwartz announced that he would forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. He led the Tigers with 54 receptions last season.
Following closely behind two days later was fellow Auburn receiver Seth Williams, who, in just three seasons, became the third-leading receiver in touchdown receptions in Auburn history with 17 passes caught for a touchdown. With close to 3,000 yards between the two, the loss of both Williams and Schwartz may prove to be a significant one in the locker room and on the field.
Another wide receiver decided to leave a day after Williams, as Eli Stove chose to not return for a fifth year and, like the others, turned his attention to the draft. In his four years with Auburn, Stove amassed 136 receptions for 1,186 yards and six touchdowns.
Over the course of the next 10 days, it appeared that defensive back Christian Tutt would join Stove in the NFL Draft, but after a series of entering then withdrawing his name from the transfer portal, his future seems unclear.
Auburn’s new coaching staff has turned to the transfer portal themselves in the search for new talent. One early target was Oklahoma tight end transfer Grant Calcaterra. However, prior to signing with the Tigers Calcaterra said decided to take his talents to SMU because of staff turnover at Auburn.
On Jan. 8, Auburn lost yet another running back, with D.J. Williams announcing that he would be leaving; Soon thereafter, he committed to Florida State. Williams contributed 199 yards and three touchdowns over 38 attempts last season. His departure means that Tank Bigsby and Sean Shivers are the only scholarship running backs left on the roster.
Just one day later, senior safety Jordyn Peters announced that he would not be returning for his senior season. Peters was reliable in the secondary, accounting for 35 total tackles in his senior season. He was most known for his punt blocks, having four over the course of his career.
Along with Peters, senior defensive linemen Big Kat Bryant and Daquan Newkirk announced that they would be entering the transfer portal. Bryant was a highly-touted recruit who always seemed just on the cusp of taking the next step. The two combined for 18 tackles and 4.5 sacks the previous season,
Another defender would answer the call of the NFL as safety Jamien Sherwood declared for the Draft on Jan. 16. Sherwood first became a starter in 2020 and was third-best on defense with 75 tackles.
The most recent Tiger to step away is Kamaar Bell, who was a reserve offensive lineman for the Tigers. The three-star recruit only appeared in one game over the past two seasons with the Tigers.
The Tigers are searching both on the recruiting trail and in the transfer portal for potential additions as the Harsin era gets underway looking to take Auburn to new heights.