From left: Cole Cubelic, Bryan Harsin and Bruce Pearl talk during an AMBUSH Auburn Alumni event 

With starter Jamien Sherwood entering the National Football League Draft after his junior season and the Tigers having to replace 2021 senior Jordyn Peters, a key backup, the depth situation looked a bit iffy at the safety spots heading into Auburn’s spring football practices.

To shore up the position the Tigers moved sophomore Ladarius Tennison, who finished last season at the top of the depth chart at the nickel spot, to safety. When it looked like he could join returning starter Smoke Monday as the top safeties on the depth chart, sophomore Chris Thompson quit the team and entered the transfer portal.

Although Thompson was a heavily-recruited prospect when he signed with the Tigers as a high school senior from the state of Texas, it is doubtful he had enough speed to be a front-line player for the Tigers as a defensive back. That is a question that won’t be answered because he used the transfer portal for a new start at Southern Cal.

For the Tigers the transfer portal, with the recently changed rule that allows prospects to change colleges one time without having to sit out a season of competition, has been a two-edged sword. They have lost promising players like running back Mark-Anthony Richards, who followed Gus Malzahn to Central Florida, as well as some others who may have been good enough to help them win games.

However, the Tigers have added guys who may be able to help them win games this fall and at no spot is that a bigger deal than at the two safety positions where transfers Donovan Kaufman (from Vanderbilt) and Bydarrius Knighten (from Southeast Missouri State) are very welcome additions to Coach Bryan Harsin’s depth chart. Knighten may also be able to help at the nickel spot.

There could be more movement on the football front, both incoming and outgoing, before preseason practice starts, but it looks like the 2021-22 Auburn men’s basketball roster is close to finalized following the latest addition, K.D. Johnson. The former four-star guard recruit earned Freshman All-SEC honors last season playing for the Georgia Bulldogs.

Coach Bruce Pearl’s roster will look really different, especially at the guard spots with Sharife Cooper going pro and with Jamal Johnson (to UAB) and Justin Powell (to Tennessee) hitting the transfer portal. However, Auburn’s new guards arriving via the portal include Zep Jasper from College of Charleston, Wendell Green, Jr. from Eastern Kentucky and Desi Sills from Arkansas in addition to Johnson. With Allen Flanigan and Devan Cambridge returning as juniors, it looks like the Tigers will have the quantity and quality needed at the guard positions where the Tigers struggled last season due to injuries and other issues. As a result, the 2020-21 season did not live up to expectations.

Another Auburn team that didn’t have the type of success its head coach or fans were expecting limped into the 2021 postseason with a less than impressive regular season and didn’t stick around long at either the SEC Softball Tournament or the Tallahassee Regional in the NCAA Tournament.

Auburn was one and done in the SEC Tournament and despite getting major respect for the postseason as a two seed at the regional, the Tigers lost their opener to three seed Central Florida. That moved the Tigers into the losers bracket where they were sent home following a 1-0 loss to Kennesaw State in a game the Tigers managed just one hit. 

Mickey Dean has done a good job with the pitchers since taking over as head coach, but the Tigers aren’t going to be a contender in the SEC or at the national level once again until they get better at the plate and improve their mental toughness. One of the reasons the Coach Clint Myers teams were so much fun to watch is that they were outstanding at the plate and had a knack for making clutch plays, and smart plays, to win games, something recent Auburn teams have been lacking.

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

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