Owen Pappoe, Isaiah Spiller

Auburn linebacker Owen Pappoe wraps up Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller

For Auburn’s football players, it will be back to classes next week as well as back to work with their offseason training. Some good news on the football front is that Coach Bryan Harsin says he is optimistic that he will be working with a healthy group when preseason practices get cranked up in August.

Last season the Tigers played the majority of their games without one of their most talented defenders, linebacker Owen Pappoe, who is returning for his senior year as potentially one of the top players in the Southeastern Conference. Keeping him full speed throughout the 2022 schedule is going to be one of the keys to success on defense.

Pappoe was held out of spring training this year. That was the case with two other key seniors, offensive tackle Austin Troxell and center Nick Brahms. Both should be ready to rumble this fall.

One of last season’s most successful freshmen and a player Harsin has high expectations for, running back Jarquez Hunter, also was sidelined in the spring. The decision was made for Hunter to have his knee scoped to clean up damage suffered prior to his arrival at Auburn. That has gone well and he is expected to be 100 percent for year two with the Tigers.

Among the newcomers, both quarterback Zach Calzada, a transfer from Texas A&M, and defensive lineman Jeffrey M’ba, a transfer from junior college, arrived in January with great opportunities to become contributors for the 2022 season. However, both were limited in the spring.

Calzada could throw the football, but was off limits to contact work in spring drills while recovering from shoulder surgery (non-throwing side). M’ba, a four-star signee, was still recovering from a knee injury and wasn’t able to participate in spring drills. Getting those guys on the field will bolster the team’s depth.

The Tigers have recently added more transfers and are probably not done on that front now that the NCAA has allowed teams to sign more than the traditional limit of 25 players in a year in order to get their rosters up to or close to the limit of 85 players on scholarship.

As it now stands the rule is just for this season and next season, but Harsin says he thinks it is such a good idea that there is a solid chance it will be extended indefinitely beyond the 2023 signing class.

The Tigers have recently added help from transfers at areas of need bringing in wide receiver Dazalin Worsham from the Miami Hurricanes, safety Craig McDonald from Iowa State and defensive lineman Morris Joseph from Memphis. It won’t be surprising if the Tigers add several more transfers before preseason drills begin in August. The sooner the coaches can get those guys on board the better so they can start training on campus with their new teammates.

Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter.

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