Projecting Auburn football's 2021 depth chart at the start of spring practice

Josh Vitale
Montgomery Advertiser

Auburn football begins spring practice on Monday. Before it does, we took a stab at projecting what the team's depth chart looks like.

The Tigers return multiple starters from on both sides of the ball, so there are some things we already do know. But with a new coaching staff led by Bryan Harsin overseeing things, there could potentially be some changes, too.

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Please note: This depth chart includes only players enrolled this spring. Signees and transfers not arriving until the summer are noted at each position.

OFFENSE

Quarterback

  1. Bo Nix (Jr.)
  2. Grant Loy (Sr.)
  3. Dematrius Davis (Fr.)
  4. Chayil Garnett (R-Fr.)

Analysis: The job still appears to be very much Nix's despite his struggles last season (59.9% completion, 6.8 yards per attempt), though it will be interesting to watch the progress of the four-star early enrollee Davis. But for Auburn's offense to have any hope of competing with the SEC's best, the junior will need to make some significant improvements. Perhaps the new brain trust of Harsin and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will help.

Running back

  1. Tank Bigsby (So.)
  2. Shaun Shivers (Sr.)
  3. Devan Barrett (Sr.)

Post-spring arrival: Jarquez Hunter

Analysis: With so much depth gone and not much experience behind him, there seems little doubt that it will be the Tank show for Auburn at running back next season.

Wide receiver

Split end

  1. Elijah Canion (R-Fr.)
  2. J.J. Evans (R-Fr.)

Flanker

  1. Kobe Hudson (So.)
  2. Malcolm Johnson Jr. (R-Fr.)
  3. Ja’Varrius Johnson (So.)

Slot

  1. Shedrick Jackson (Sr.) OR Ze’Vian Capers (So.)
  2. Caylin Newton (Sr.)

Post-spring arrivals: Hal Presley, Tar'Varish Dawson

Analysis: No position on the roster lost more experience and production than this one. Nix building a rapport with these young but talented receivers will be crucial this spring.

Auburn wide receiver Elijah Canion (17) stiff arms a Northwestern defender on a 57-yard touchdown catch during the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2021.

Tight end/H-back/fullback

  1. John Samuel Shenker (Sr.)
  2. Luke Deal (So.) OR Brandon Frazier (So.) OR J.J. Pegues (So.)
  3. Tyler Fromm (So.)
  4. Landen King (Fr.)

Analysis: These positions did not produce much statistically under Gus Malzahn, but he and his staff left behind a talented group for Harsin and Co. to work with. Auburn's new coach is known for his creativity on offense, so it will be interesting to see how he, Bobo and position coach Brad Bedell decide to use these players.

Offensive line

Left tackle

  1. Alec Jackson (Sr.) OR Austin Troxell (Sr.)
  2. Kilian Zierer (Jr.)

Left guard

  1. Tashawn Manning (Sr.) OR Brandon Council (Sr.)
  2. Tate Johnson (R-Fr.)

Center

  1. Nick Brahms (Sr.)
  2. Jalil Irvin (Jr.)
  3. Avery Jernigan (R-Fr.)

Right guard

  1. Keiondre Jones (So.)
  2. Kameron Stutts (So.)

Right tackle

  1. Brodarious Hamm (Sr.)
  2. Brenden Coffey (Sr.)
  3. Garner Langlo (Fr.)

Post-spring arrival: Colby Smith

Analysis: Eight of these players started games this season, so experience won't be an issue. The keys for new position coach Will Friend a a) finding the best five and b) keeping them healthy after a virus- and injury-affected 2020 campaign.

Auburn offensive linemen Nick Brahms (52), Tashawn Manning (56) and Alec Jackson (65) line up in front of Bo Nix (10) against LSU on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020 in Auburn, Ala.

DEFENSE

Defensive line

Defensive end

  1. Colby Wooden (So.)
  2. Zykeivous Walker (So.)
  3. Daniel Foster-Allen (R-Fr.)

Defensive tackle

  1. Dre Butler (Sr.)
  2. Jay Hardy (R-Fr.)
  3. Lee Hunter (Fr.)

Nose tackle

  1. Tyrone Truesdell (Sr.)
  2. Marquis Burks (Sr.)
  3. Jeremiah Wright (So.)

Post-spring arrivals: Marquis Robinson, Tobechi Okoli, Ian Mathews

Analysis: Auburn played mostly four-man fronts during Kevin Steele's five seasons running the defense, but Harsin and defensive coordinator Derek Mason have more experience with three-man fronts. Fortunately, the Tigers have a lot of versatile players capable of playing multiple positions along the line.

Auburn defensive end Derick Hall (29) sacks LSU quarterback TJ Finley (11) on Oct. 31, 2020.

Edge

  1. Derick Hall (Jr.)
  2. Jaren Handy (Jr.)
  3. Caleb Johnson (Jr.)
  4. Cam Riley (So.)
  5. Romello Height (R-Fr.)

Post-spring arrivals: Eku Leota, Dylan Brooks

Analysis: This may be one of the most interesting positions to watch this spring. These players could be defensive ends in a four-man front or stand-up outside linebackers in a three-man front. They might rush the passer or drop into coverage. There could be two on the field at a time, too.

Linebacker

Inside linebacker

  1. Owen Pappoe (Jr.)
  2. Chandler Wooten (Sr.)
  3. Wesley Steiner (So.)
  4. Kameron Brown (So.)

Inside linebacker

  1. Zakoby McClain (Sr.)
  2. T.D. Moultry (Sr.)
  3. Cam Riley (So.)
  4. Desmond Tisdol (So.)

Post-spring arrival: Joko Willis

Analysis: The return of Wooten (who opted out last season) and Moultry (who spent four seasons playing Buck) will provide needed depth behind stars Pappoe and McClain, who had to play virtually every snap last season.

Auburn linebacker Zakoby McClain (9) tackles Arkansas running back Trelon Smith (22) at Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. Auburn defeated Arkansas 30-28.

Secondary

Cornerback

  1. Roger McCreary (Sr.)
  2. Marco Domio (Sr.)
  3. Kamal Hadden (Jr.)

Cornerback

  1. Nehemiah Pritchett (Jr.)
  2.  Jaylin Simpson (So.)
  3. Eric Reed Jr. (R-Fr.)

Nickel

  1. Ladarius Tennison (So.)
  2. Zion Puckett (So.)

Free safety

  1. Smoke Monday (Sr.)
  2. Traivon Leonard (Sr.)

Strong safety

  1. Chris Thompson Jr. (So.)
  2. Ahmari Harvey (Fr.)

Post-spring arrivals: Dreshun Miller, A.D. Diamond, Cayden Bridges, Juwon Gaston

Analysis: Cornerback might be the deepest position on the roster right now, and it's only going to get better when Miller arrives. A competition between Thompson and Harvey for the starting safety spot opposite Monday could be fascinating to watch.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Placekicker

  1. Anders Carlson (Sr.)
  2. Ben Patton (So.)
  3. Evan McGuire (R-Fr.)

Punter

  1. Oscar Chapman (So.)
  2. Aidan Marshall (Sr.)

Kick returner

  1. Tank Bigsby (So.)
  2. Shaun Shivers (Sr.)

Punt returner

  1. Ja’Varrius Johnson (So.) OR Kobe Hudson (So.)

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.