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Future for Harsin depends on QB decision


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Future for Bryan Harsin depends on quarterback decision

By Joseph Goodman | jgoodman@al.com
6-7 minutes

The last time an Auburn football coach had the job of replacing an entrenched starter at quarterback was the spring of 2019.

It feels like 100 years ago, the spring of 2019, but it was only three. Auburn had its spring game on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and it was a big day for Auburn coach Bryan Harsin, who survived his first down-home coup attempt in February. Whether Harsin sees another spring in Auburn depends a lot on the quarterback position, and so picking the right guy for the job this fall is going to be his most important decision in Auburn until they come for his job again.

Former Auburn coach Gus Malzahn fought off a couple coups at Auburn, including one before that 2019 spring game. Time is a flat circle, they say, and at Auburn it’s always two minutes to midnight.

I saw one of those Internet polls the other day that said Auburn football was one of the most uninteresting teams in the country. By what measure? The coach is always fighting for his life, and beating back one baseless rumor after another. Anyone remember the ridiculous report about Malzahn renegotiating his buyout to save his job? Totally false, but completely relatable to this past winter for the current coach.

RELATED: Auburn quarterback competition takes center stage

RELATED: Observations from Auburn’s last day of spring football

RELATED: What Bryan Harsin said about A-Day

Has Harsin had a good start to his tenure at Auburn? No, definitely not, considering all of the turnover and last season’s 6-7 record, but Auburn University did itself no favors with such a public investigation into the program in February. It was the same internal discord that handicapped Malzahn’s time at Auburn.

A faction of Auburn’s supporters wanted Malzahn gone after the 2018 season, but he managed to keep his job and make it to spring practice.

Alabama was everyone’s pick in April 2019 to repeat as national champions, no one yet knew that LSU was devising one of the best offenses in the history of college football but everyone went into that spring with a good idea that Auburn, at the very least, probably had the best defense in the SEC.

The Tigers just needed a quarterback, and the decision seemed pretty clear to everyone in Jordan-Hare Stadium that A-Day. It was going to be the anointed true freshman five-star Bo Nix, but maybe redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood had an outside shot.

Landing Nix with that recruiting class helped Malzahn keep his job, so, not surprisingly, Malzahn went with the son of former Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix. From birth, Nix was destined to be the starting quarterback at Auburn, and he claimed his birthright after that spring.

Nix was a good choice to replace quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who was off to the NFL after the 2018 season, but was he the best option?

In Nix’s first game, he dramatically led a comeback against Oregon, which featured quarterback Justin Herbert. Nix also won the Iron Bowl that season, and while the Crimson Tide didn’t have its starter, Tua Tagovailoa, the Alabama backup who Nix outdueled was pretty good, too. It was Mac Jones.

Here’s the funny thing about the spring of 2019, though, and how it relates to this spring at Auburn these 100 years later. Turns out, maybe Nix starting as a freshman wasn’t the best decision for Auburn football in the long run.

There was perhaps a better option on the field for that A-Day in 2019, but come that fall that player was gone. It was quarterback Malik Willis, who is now the top quarterback prospect for the upcoming NFL Draft.

What if Willis had stayed and become Auburn’s starter that season?

There are so many questions with Auburn after this A-Day, but the biggest of all, of course, is who will be the quarterback to replace Nix, the three-year starter who transferred to Oregon. Quarterbacks T.J. Finley, Robby Ashford and Holden Geriner participated in the spring game, but a quarterback competition featuring four potential starters will carry into the summer and fall camp.

Ashford, who is originally from Hoover, transferred to Auburn from Oregon. The other quarterback is sophomore Zach Calzada, who transferred from Texas A&M. Calzada is recovering from a shoulder injury, but should be fully cleared later this summer. Finley transferred from LSU two years ago. Geriner is a true freshman and Harsin’s first quarterback commitment.

I have no idea who should start at quarterback for Auburn, and neither does anyone else. So sorry if you came here looking for impossible answers. What I do know is this, though. Everyone is predicting a losing season for Auburn in 2022, but it helps that Harsin will have so many good options at quarterback after spring ball.

“The biggest thing is they’ll all be here,” Harsin said.

Finally, no one can leave.

Calzada, Ashford and Finley are all transfers, so more than likely those players are committed to competing for the quarterback position at Auburn for the rest of the offseason. These days, in a world of college football where quarterbacks are constantly entering the transfer portal, Auburn’s loaded quarterback room is a rare luxury.

“It’s a positive,” Finley said. “It’s only going to make each one of us better.”

For Harsin, it means he’ll have every opportunity to make the right decision.

Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group, and author of “We Want Bama: A season of hope and the making of Nick Saban’s ‘ultimate team’”. You can find him on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.

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2 minutes ago, Eagle-1 said:

I hope the title of the article is way off base. 2022 should in no way define the future of Harsin at Auburn, unless you are talking about the recruiting of the 2023 class. This roster is in dire need of talent at many key positions which is mostly not Harsin's fault. Upgrading the talent level on this team is going to take time, and I would hope that someone in the Auburn administration has enough brains to realize that. 

We have no proven QB, nor any Wr's that should be considered legitimate threats to a defense at this time. We are a team that to have any real chance against upper level SEC teams needs to rely on running the football, and shortening the game. The big problem with this is that we have an OL that struggles to get any push run blocking, and I don't expect that to change much in 2022. Our deepest position group on offense is at the TE position, yet I don't see a one of them that I feel could turn a missed tackle into a a 60 yard TD. Hopefully we have enough defense to keep us in several close games, because I expect the offense to struggle scoring points again this season. This has nothing to do with Harsin's coaching abilities, nor where, or what conference he came here from. Auburn fans, and administration needs to exercise some patience, and let this play out for another couple of years to see if Harsin can upgrade the talent level here. 

i am sure it is a little click bait because they just did not have all that info this spring on the team for whatever reason. i am not kidding when i say i have been to tigerland and there was no spring news at times concerning football. i imagine the dude is trying to get paid.

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3 hours ago, Eagle-1 said:

I hope the title of the article is way off base. 2022 should in no way define the future of Harsin at Auburn, unless you are talking about the recruiting of the 2023 class. This roster is in dire need of talent at many key positions which is mostly not Harsin's fault. Upgrading the talent level on this team is going to take time, and I would hope that someone in the Auburn administration has enough brains to realize that. 

We have no proven QB, nor any Wr's that should be considered legitimate threats to a defense at this time. We are a team that to have any real chance against upper level SEC teams needs to rely on running the football, and shortening the game. The big problem with this is that we have an OL that struggles to get any push run blocking, and I don't expect that to change much in 2022. Our deepest position group on offense is at the TE position, yet I don't see a one of them that I feel could turn a missed tackle into a a 60 yard TD. Hopefully we have enough defense to keep us in several close games, because I expect the offense to struggle scoring points again this season. This has nothing to do with Harsin's coaching abilities, nor where, or what conference he came here from. Auburn fans, and administration needs to exercise some patience, and let this play out for another couple of years to see if Harsin can upgrade the talent level here. 

Once again, had CBH kept everyone on board that he should've, 9-4 this year would've been incredibly doable. Arkansas won eight games from 2017-19 combined and then two years later, won nine.

As for talent, yes CGM left behind some glaring holes in the roster. CBH hasn't exactly earned much sympathy off his ability to recruit (out of HS OR the TP).

Obviously he will get another year if we reach a bowl, but by year 3, nothing short of 8 wins will suffice.

Edited by AUwent
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al.com is trash. 

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Definitely a huge decision. I just have no clue how you take this personnel and make it a solid offense. It sucks, but let's hope the defense can keep us in most games and the offense finally upgrades from bad to below average. Simplify it and distribute the football quickly I suppose. Stay ahead of the chains and try to get in manageable situations instead of 3rd and forever. Then hope the defense can keep us in most games 

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Most coaches future will depend on who he puts on the field at QB. It also depends on the WRs, RBs, OL and the entire defense. But back to the QBs, it 'looks' like we have a pretty decent 4 deep QB room for Harsin to work with. Three of the four have some wheels to go with their passing ability. There were several nice passes thrown out there and a few that weren't.  All of them have something they bring to the table so it will be interesting to see how this plays out during Fall camp. 

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1 hour ago, AUwent said:

Once again, had CBH kept everyone on board that he should've,

He did.  

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17 minutes ago, bigbird said:

He did.  

If you're going to run off as many people as Harsin has, you'd better have a boatload of talent coming in to replace them.

Edited by AUwent
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1 hour ago, AUght2win said:

I think we need a “no Joseph Goodman articles” policy on the board. 

Just kidding. Sort of.

Not kidding -- that writer is a turd.  

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4 hours ago, AUwent said:

Once again, had CBH kept everyone on board that he should've, 9-4 this year would've been incredibly doable. Arkansas won eight games from 2017-19 combined and then two years later, won nine.

As for talent, yes CGM left behind some glaring holes in the roster. CBH hasn't exactly earned much sympathy off his ability to recruit (out of HS OR the TP).

Obviously he will get another year if we reach a bowl, but by year 3, nothing short of 8 wins will suffice.

Just what offensive players Harsin keeping around are you referring to? All the same glaring weaknesses were apparent on last year's offensive roster as well. Bo Nix, who it looks like maybe riding the pine at his new destination? As I said, pay more attention to the 23 class than you do wins, and losses in 2022 if you really want to evaluate what direction Harsin is taking the program. As for the facepalms, and down votes to my post, I wear them like a badge of honor because they are coming from people who apparently don't know jack about what it takes to run a football program, especially one with glaring deficiencies all over the roster. 

Edited by Eagle-1
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1 hour ago, AUwent said:

If you're going to run off as many people as Harsin has, you'd better have a boatload of talent coming in to replace them.

Same question I quoted you on????

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There is enough talent to make a decent season out of this upcoming year. However, The collosal holes to fill for the 2023 class are direct result of Harsin's complete failure to recruit our most pressing needs last year.. If Harsin is able to sign a strong class for the offensive line, maybe that will get him another year. picking the right qb is just a trash click bait argument devoid of relaity.

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5 minutes ago, shabby said:

There is enough talent to make a decent season out of this upcoming year. However, The collosal holes to fill for the 2023 class are direct result of Harsin's complete failure to recruit our most pressing needs last year.. If Harsin is able to sign a strong class for the offensive line, maybe that will get him another year. picking the right qb is just a trash click bait argument devoid of relaity.

Really sad that someone wants to blame a guy who has been on the job such a short time for glaring weaknesses on the roster. One who couldn't even bring recruits to campus for months when he took over the job. Unbelievable, but thanks for proving my point about not knowing jack.

Edited by Eagle-1
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19 minutes ago, shabby said:

There is enough talent to make a decent season out of this upcoming year. However, The collosal holes to fill for the 2023 class are direct result of Harsin's complete failure to recruit our most pressing needs last year.. If Harsin is able to sign a strong class for the offensive line, maybe that will get him another year. picking the right qb is just a trash click bait argument devoid of relaity.

I mean, he's had one class. I agree he didn't recruit the OL well last year, but that class wasn't going to be the infill for 23 OL.  That needs to come from the portal this offseason or over the winter.

Also, we could have 3 starters returning from the 22 OL in Zierer, Jones, and Wright

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1 hour ago, Eagle-1 said:

Really sad that someone wants to blame a guy who has been on the job such a short time for glaring weaknesses on the roster. One who couldn't even bring recruits to campus for months when he took over the job. Unbelievable, but thanks for proving my point about not knowing 

Explain then how Mason and Etheridge  were able to pull recruits left and right for the defensive side of the staff under the same conditions and yet harsin and his Boise boys were only able to pull in one lineman. He is absolutely responsible for the failure to recruit for this position. Your excuses are laughable. As I stated if he doesn't fi this failure he will be gone at the end of the year and who he chooses as qb will have little to nothing to do with his continued tenure at Auburn. 

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56 minutes ago, W.E.D said:

I mean, he's had one class. I agree he didn't recruit the OL well last year, but that class wasn't going to be the infill for 23 OL.  That needs to come from the portal this offseason or over the winter.

Also, we could have 3 starters returning from the 22 OL in Zierer, Jones, and Wright

He struck out in the portal as well.  I'm not sure how people can take issue with the viewpoint of how he addresses this critical need will be the biggest factor as to whether Harsin has a continued future at Auburn. 

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Just now, shabby said:

Explain then how Mason and Etheridge  were able to pull recruits left and right for the defensive side of the staff under the same conditions and yet harsin and his Boise boys were able to pull in one lineman. He is absolutely responsible for the failure to recruit for this position. 

Uh, last time I checked Harsin is the head coach. You don't get to claim defensive recruits aren't his as well. Also, you do realize that the OC from last year is no longer here. High school offensive linemen weren't going to help us this season anyway. Let's watch the OL recruiting for 23. He already has a commitment from a 4 star center. Yes we missed on a couple of portal OL targets this year, but if you can't land one who is an upgrade what's the point. If you think "Boise Boys", as you referred to them were going to walk in here with COVID restrictions and immediately light up the recruiting trail you are gravely naive, or just don't have a clue about recruiting against opposing coaches who have been recruiting these same kids for several years. 

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29 minutes ago, shabby said:

He struck out in the portal as well.  I'm not sure how people can take issue with the viewpoint of how he addresses this critical need will be the biggest factor as to whether Harsin has a continued future at Auburn. 

Bruh I've stated he hasn't fixed our OL recruiting problems 

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53 minutes ago, shabby said:

Explain then how Mason and Etheridge  were able to pull recruits left and right for the defensive side of the staff under the same conditions and yet harsin and his Boise boys were only able to pull in one lineman. He is absolutely responsible for the failure to recruit for this position. Your excuses are laughable. As I stated if he doesn't fi this failure he will be gone at the end of the year and who he chooses as qb will have little to nothing to do with his continued tenure at Auburn. 

Well, none of the Boise boys were recruiting OL. That is well-known, long-time SEC retread Will Friend. No where's close to a Boise boy. Fortunately it looks like he's really picking it up this class, but it remains to be seen if he can close. That falls on Harsin for hiring the guy, but I fail to see how his Boise boys have anything to do with that. Bedell, Schmedding, and Kiesau all pulled nice players and filled their needs

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21 minutes ago, bigbird said:

So many posters I haven't seen in a long-time.  It's wonderful to see everyone.

noted-notes.gif

 

Must be getting closer to Foosball season

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Just now, AUBwins said:

Must be getting closer to Foosball season

dance-feeling-it.gif

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4 minutes ago, bigbird said:

dance-feeling-it.gif

Although I wish every game thread will be like the Ole miss game thread from a few years ago.  We had some great civil conversations.  We would just laugh off the over thrown passes or abysmal play calling and everyone was relaxed.  Heck @cole256didn't even have anyone trying to argue with him.  😆 

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