Auburn concluded Spring practice with the 2022 A-Day Game on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It was a low scoring afternoon with Team Tigers beating Team Auburn 10-9. The losing side had an opportunity late to take the victory, but an unsuccessful two-point conversation sealed the game. The final play for Team Auburn was when freshman Holden Geriner could not connect with Landen King in the end zone. The duo did connect on the touchdown that got them within one. With these games though, the final score is not important. The most important part is improvement in year two under head coach Bryan Harsin. Here are some 2022 Auburn A-Day takeaways:
2022 Auburn A-Day Takeaways
Quarterbacks Take Center Stage
Most of the attention was on the quarterbacks on Saturday. The upcoming season will be the first in three seasons that Bo Nix will not be the starter. Nix is off to Oregon to conclude his college career, and a new leader must develop. T.J. Finley and Oregon transfer Robby Ashford took most of the snaps with Texas A&M transfer Zack Calzada sitting out due to injury. Finley worked with the first team going 11 for 19 with 137 yards and one touchdown. The scoring throw was the first of the game when Finley connected with Malcolm Johnson for a 20-yard score to go up 7-0. Despite the solid numbers, Finley still showed inconsistency by overthrowing open receivers. He did the same in the final three games of last season.
Ashford is the one most people are talking about after going 12 for 16 and 132 yards. He also showed several times examples of his great athleticism. He would have had a big day rushing, if the quarterbacks were allowed to be hit. On his first drive he led his unit on a long drive, but without points when Marshall Meyers missed a short field goal. Geriner got his first action at around five minutes left in the fourth with Team Tigers leading Team Auburn 10-3. He did well leading the offense into scoring position and connected with King with 21 seconds remaining before the failed two-point attempt. He finished nine for eleven for 71 yards and a touchdown.
While the quarterbacks got most of the attention, the offense will revolve around Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter at running back. Hunter has been out with injury, and Bigsby was limited in the game. The third year back had just 12 yards on five carries but caught three passes for 28 yards. If Auburn can get Bigsby more involved in the passing game, it could open up more in the offense. The leading rushing on Saturday was Sean Jackson with 26 yards on seven carries. Jackson looks to be the top candidate to fill that third spot with the transfer of Shaun Shivers.
If a weakness could be pointed to in the offense it is the receivers. They vastly struggled at times last season and not a lot of experience returns. Auburn had a mass exodus at the position from graduation and transfer during the off-season. That included leading receiver Kobe Hudson. Tar’ Varish Dawson had the most catches of the receivers with three, and Ze’vian Capers with 47 yards. Tight-end seemed to be more of a focus in the offense with Brandon Frazier having five catches for 42 yards. Team leader John Samuel Shenker only had two receptions for 34 yards, but the intent was shown to get him the ball.
Auburn lost some key leaders from this side of the ball with the departures of Zakoby McClain, Chandler Wooten, Smoke Monday, and Roger McCreary. Owen Pappoe did not play in the game due to recovering from injury but should take over the leadership at linebacker. In the secondary, Nehemiah Pritchett should be a leader there but replacing the talent of McCreary is a big ask. Pritchett had just one tackle on Saturday. Linebacker Wesley Steiner led the way with six tackles, and Cam Riley had five with a sack.
Main Image courtesy USA Today