Citrus Bowl availability report: Tank Bigsby among Auburn starters out vs. Northwestern

Josh Vitale
Montgomery Advertiser

Wide receiver Anthony Schwartz is the only known opt-out of Friday's Citrus Bowl, but he will not be the only key player Auburn is missing.

Running back Tank Bigsby, backup quarterback Grant Loy, right tackle Brodarious Hamm, defensive linemen Daquan Newkirk, cornerback Roger McCreary, and nickelbacks Christian Tutt and Zion Puckett will also not play against Northwestern, according to Auburn's in-house pregame radio show.

Defensive tackle Tyrone Truesdell is considered questionable to play.

Live updates:Auburn football vs. Northwestern in Citrus Bowl

No reasons were given for those absences, but many are thought to be either injury or COVID-19 related – acting head coach Kevin Steele did not reveal the team's specific testing numbers, but did say that a positive test was returned Thursday morning before the team left Auburn.

Safety Jamien Sherwood, who Steele described as "the biggest question" going into the game due an ankle injury he's dealt with for much of the season, is dressed out and available to play.

Not having Schwartz or Bigsby leaves the Tigers without two of their best offensive weapons against an elite Northwestern defense that ranks fifth nationally limiting opponents to 15.5 points per game. The former leads the team with 54 receptions and ranks second with 636 yards and three scores. The latter ranks second in program history with 834 rushing yards as a freshman.

Mark-Antony Richards entered the transfer portal in December, so Auburn's only scholarship running backs Friday will be junior Shaun Shivers and sophomore D.J. Williams, who offensive coordinator Chad Morris said is healthy now after missing time due to an ankle injury late in the regular season.

Senior Eli Stove will get the biggest uptick in snaps at wide receiver in place of Schwartz, but freshmen Ze'Vian Capers, Kobe Hudson and Malcolm Johnson Jr. could also get more opportunities.

Austin Troxell started at right tackle in place of Hamm. Alec Jackson, who missed the end of the regular season after undergoing hand surgery, is back in action and started at left tackle.

No McCreary means a lot of Nehemiah Pritchett, Jaylin Simpson and Marco Domio at cornerback. 

Steele said Tuesday that freshman Ladarius Tennison was expected to make a second straight start at nickel after doing so in place of Tutt in the regular-season finale at Mississippi State, too.

Josh Vitale is the Auburn beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoshVitale. To reach him by email, click here.