With the Auburn football team in transition heading into Coach Bryan Harsin’s second season in charge of the program, the Tigers have received much-needed good news on the personnel front.
With two of the team’s top three linebackers (Zakoby McClain and Chandler Wooten) not returning for the 2022 season, the defense received a boost when former five-star recruit Owen Pappoe said he will be back as a senior. Pappoe has plenty of talent, but is coming off a disappointing 2021 season in which he was severely limited by an ankle injury and played in just five of Auburn’s 13 games.
Pappoe started every week as a freshman and sophomore while establishing himself as one of the team’s top performers, which is what the Tigers need him to be again in 2022.
Derick Hall, who led the team in quarterback sacks (nine) and tackles behind the line of scrimmage (12.5), also announced he will return as a senior. Hall’s quickness and tenacious style of play made him one of the Tigers’ top performers this past season.
Colby Wooden, who led the defensive front in tackles with 61, also plans to come back for another season, which is very good news for Defensive Coordinator Derek Mason. More help on the defensive front is coming with tackle Marquis Burks returning as well.
Mason and the rest of the staff look like they added a good bit of talent in the December signing period. While the Tigers could certainly use another standout linebacker or a great pass rusher from the transfer portal, the offense looks to have the more urgent needs.
The team’s shortage on offensive line numbers hasn’t been solved yet. It also looks like the Tigers really need a quarterback from the transfer portal along with another running back in addition to a difference-maker for the receiver group.
On the plus side of the offensive ledger, the Tigers got a boost when John Samuel Shenker announced he would be back for another year after setting AU single-season records for tight end catches and yardage.
Harsin’s team also received good news on New Year’s Day when local four-star offensive line prospect Bradyn Joiner chose the Tigers over Georgia and Penn State. He has one more season to play at Auburn High so he won’t be joining the AU team until the 2023 season. Before he arrives the Tigers need to add tackles, guards and a center to restock the offensive front.
With the SEC basketball season started, based on the pre-conference and early league games, Bruce Pearl’s team looks like it has the talent and depth to make a strong push to compete for the regular season league championship. LSU, Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee are teams to watch and maybe Arkansas and Mississippi State as well.
The Tigers have plenty of size and lots of depth bolstered by the return from injury of Allen Flanigan. Combine those factors with quickness and good ball-handling at the point guard position along with newcomer big men Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler performing at a high level and it explains why there is plenty of excitement from Auburn basketball fans.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter.