With preseason football practice starting this week, Coach Bryan Harsin’s first Auburn team will be looking to blend in nine transfers to bolster the offense and defense. As is the case with numerous teams around the country, the Tigers have taken advantage of a new rule for 2021 that allows players to move from one college to another without having to sit out a season of competition as a redshirt.
It looks like the Tigers will gain the most help from transfers in the secondary where they are replacing starting safety Jamien Sherwood along with Christian Tutt, who was a starter at the nickel position.
Dreshun Miller, who is originally from Marietta, Ga., is expected to immediately push for a starting role at cornerback. He was one of the top defensive backs in the Big 12 Conference last year for the West Virginia Mountaineers. Before that, the 6-2, 194-pound Miller was a star on the junior college level for the Eastern Arizona Gila Monsters.
At safety, the Tigers added Donovan Kaufman from Vanderbilt, who made the move to the Plains along with his former head coach, Derek Mason, who is coordinating Auburn’s defense.
Last season, the former Louisiana Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year made 10 tackles in Vandy’s opener vs. Texas A&M, but played in just one more game and received a medical redshirt, so the 5-10, 200-pound defensive back has four seasons of eligibility remaining.
A very experienced transfer expected to bolster the secondary is 6-1, 201-pound Bydarrius Knighten, who was a star player at Southeast Missouri State. Originally from Tunica, Miss., the senior is a player who will likely be able to line up at safety or nickel.
Six of the new nine transfers are defensive players. One of the newcomers on offense arrives at a position of need with the Tigers having to replace their top three wide receivers from the 2020 roster. Auburn is the third stop for 6-0, 190-pound Demetris Robertson from Savannah, Ga., who earned Freshman All-America honors in 2016 for the Cal Bears after he caught 60 passes for 767 yards.
The five-star recruit was injured and redshirted in 2017. He then transferred closer to home and played three seasons and caught 42 passes for the Georgia Bulldogs. He hasn’t put up big numbers in the SEC yet, but that could change if he develops good chemistry with quarterback Bo Nix.
In addition to sorting out the pecking order at the receiver spots, preseason camp will be a time to figure out who will be the starters on the offensive line. Preseason All-SEC selection Nick Brahms is expected to be the starting center.
The Tigers return a large group of players who started games on the offensive line last year. Senior Tashawn Manning and sophomore Keiondre Jones were the regular starters at guard. Seniors Brodarious Hamm, Alec Jackson, Austin Troxell and Brenden Coffey each started games at tackle. Another senior, Brandon Council, started games at guard and tackle in 2020.
The Tigers will be counting on their experienced offensive front to open running lanes for Tank Bigsby, one of the top returning players in the SEC.
Looking at the big picture for the Tigers, the linebackers look like the team’s strength. Those guys should have big seasons if new defensive line coaches Nick Eason and Bert Watts put together put a stout group on the field to match up vs. opposing offensive fronts.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter.