Takeaways from Bryan Harsin’s time at SEC Media Days

Takeaways from Bryan Harsin’s time at SEC Media Days

Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin’s defiant statement during SEC Media Days on Thursday likely was after most reporters picked the Tigers to finish last in the SEC West. Harsin enters his second season on the Plains with uncertainty at quarterback and a lack of experience other than senior Shedrick Jackson at wide receiver.

The offensive line brings back four starters out of five positions which is a good thing. However, the group had issues with pass protection. Also, the unit struggled to consistently provide running lanes for runningbacks Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter during the season-ending five-game losing streak.

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Pointing out the flaws is easy, but it is essential to remember that the Tigers were 6-2 and had a chance to book a trip to the SEC championship game. Harsin has spent the last four months since February’s university-led inquiry going to charity golf tournaments, speaking engagements, and sending his coaching staff to over 400 high schools in the state of Alabama and several more around the Southeast.

Harsin’s quip about some people in the room not expecting him to be at SEC Media Day was catchy. However, if he’s going to be at next year’s event, the Tigers have to win on the field and in recruiting. Let’s start with recruiting for our observations from Thursday’s SEC Media Days.

1. Auburn has four commits: offensive lineman Bradyn Joiner, running back Jeremiah Cobb, safety Terrance Love, and wide receiver Karmello English. It’s fair to point out the small number, but each of the four is a four-star athlete based on the recruiting sites. Is it quality over quantity? Is it too early to be concerned? It isn’t easy to know, but Harsin remains confident.

“We’ve told our recruits: watch. I think the ones that have been on our campus, they see the energy and the vibe, what’s happening, how the players are responding, coaches are connecting, everything that we’re doing,” Harsin told reporters. There’s great energy in our program right now. There’s alignment in our program right now. I know those recruits and families feel that when they step on campus.”

2. Harsin started his chat with journalists by honoring Buddy Davidson, who elevated from a student manager at Auburn to sports information director to assistant athletic director in a 50-year career, and attended 700 consecutive Auburn football games. Davidson, also known as “Mr. Auburn,” passed away on Tuesday after an extended illness at 82 years old.

“I’ve got the privilege to hear some of the stories here, but Buddy Davidson, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 82, many called him Mr. Auburn,” Harsin said to reporters. His life-long devotion to Auburn is second to none.”

During the inquiry, one of the knocks on Harsin was the perception that he didn’t understand the culture at Auburn or in the south coming from Boise State. Auburn fans require buy-in from their coach, and little things like acknowledging people like Davidson in life and death could go a long way toward showing how committed Harsin is to the Tigers.

“This is what was fascinating to me: He saw every game, home and away, for 61 years, so 1957 to 2017, and he stopped his streak at 700 games as he suffered a stroke in 2014 that limited his mobility and speech,” Harsin said. Anyhow, to his family, our condolences, and thank you for the support and War Eagle.”

3. Harsin wouldn’t name the starting quarterback, but he gave some insight into when and how he’d pick either TJ Finley, Zac Calzada, Robby Ashford, or Holden Geriner.

“I’m not going to put a timeline—we’ll have one as we get into that first game prep. Sometimes—and again, I’m not going to—I usually say it’s about 10 days out is kind of where it’s happened, but we’ll name a starter when it’s right,” There will be a time in camp when everybody knows, and then it’s just a matter of how we want to roll it out. So, we’ll know before you guys know, and then we’ll figure out how we roll it out and how we want that whole thing to go.”

4. Harsin hinted at the possibility of creating a unique package of plays for a QB other than the starter.

“The thing about the quarterback position, too, is you may have other guys in there too that contribute,” Harsin said. “It’s not like I haven’t done that in the past, where you got another guy that also comes in and plays and is a part of it, maybe in a package and some other things.

Ashford showed flashes of speed and a strong arm while winning the MVP of the A-Day game. Finley has the most experience in an Auburn uniform, and Calzada played well at Texas A&M, but neither would offer the change of pace that Ashford could. Harsin could start Finley or Calzada with a package for Ashford, which could confuse opposing defenses.

5. Harsin expressed confidence in the offensive line and offensive line coach Will Friend.

“We’re really counting on the guys we have right now that came back to be healthy and ready to play. Those guys all are; they’re going to be available,” Harsin said. There’s not going to be anybody in fall camp right now that’s not going to be able to go, so we’re advanced in our strength and our knowledge of our system. Now, we got to go show it. We got some really good tailbacks behind them. If you’re playing offensive line for us, and you got Jarquez Hunter and Tank Bigsby behind you, that should be motivation enough because those guys can do some really good things if we take care of business up front.”

Harsin’s chances of attending next year’s media days as the Tiger head coach would infinitely improve if he’s right about the offensive line. It won’t be much longer before the truth is revealed. Auburn opens up with Mercer on September 3rd at Jordan-Hare.

“They’re a lot stronger. The O-line is stronger, they’re bigger, they’re moving better,” Harsin said. I think Coach Friend has done a really good job—and I do want to brag on Coach Friend, because he’s had a tough job, with when we came in here, that was the narrative, the offensive line, trying to bring some guys in and guys come back and stay.”

Nubyjas Wilborn covers Auburn for Alabama Media Group. Follow Nubyjas on Twitter @nwilborn19.

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