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Auburn trying to get ‘further, faster’


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Auburn trying to get ‘further, faster’ in 2nd spring under Bryan Harsin

Updated: Mar. 27, 2022, 10:01 a.m. | Published: Mar. 27, 2022, 10:01 a.m.
Auburn spring practice

Players go through drills during the first day of Auburn's spring practice Monday, March 14, 2022 in Auburn, Ala. Todd Van Emst/AU AthleticsTodd Van Emst/AU Athletics


A disappointing Year 1 of the Bryan Harsin era has Auburn eager to prove itself heading into 2022.


The Tigers lost five straight games to close the 2021 season, and now in the midst of spring practice, there are a pair of buzz words that are being leaned upon as a mantra of sorts — further, faster. That’s the goal for Auburn this offseason, its second under Harsin and his staff: Make more progress at a quicker rate than the team did a year ago, when it was first introduced to its new head coach, a new staff, a new playbook and a new era of football on the Plains.


“The coaches are saying we’re way further than where they were last year,” defensive back Donovan Kaufman said. “We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re moving in the right direction…. It didn’t dawn on me until we were in a defensive meeting before spring when Coach (Jeff) Schmedding brought up Ole Miss and said, ‘don’t we want to have that feeling again?’ It kind of put it into perspective for me. It was a crappy year.”


That win against Ole Miss on Oct. 30 put Auburn at 6-2 on the season and firmly in contention in the SEC West heading into the final month of the regular season. The Tigers appeared on the right track in Harsin’s first season.


Then the calendar flipped to November.


Auburn lost its final four regular-season games, including a quadruple-overtime classic in the Iron Bowl to close the schedule. Then the team dropped its bowl game against Houston, ending 2021 with five straight losses and the program’s first losing record since 2012.


“Nobody wants to go out with five losses at the end of the year after a 6-2 start,” offensive tackle Kilian Zierer said. “So, I think the goal is to have a similar start as we did at the beginning of last year and to maintain that throughout the year so we don’t end up with having a great football team that suddenly can’t seem to finish games.”


The importance of finishing was one of Harsin’s biggest takeaways from his first season in the SEC. The Tigers were unable to do that last year, as evidenced by the team squandering of double-digit leads in losses to Mississippi State, South Carolina and Alabama, as well as by the Tigers’ offensive stagnation in the fourth quarter of those losses down the stretch.


“We didn’t like the way we finished; nobody did,” Harsin said. “That’s the key; if you’re going to make a run, you’re going to play for something at the end of the year, you have to finish…. We’ve got to take what we learned from that and apply it to what we’re doing moving forward.”


It’s why the saying this spring is for the team to get further, faster. They understand there’s work to be done, and there are no shortcuts that can be taken. That’s why it’s important for the returning players to not only progress themselves but bring along the younger guys and the newcomers. That’s where the improved locker room environment and more cohesion throughout the team that Harsin has noticed this offseason will really kick in.

The quicker and more seamlessly that happens, the better equipped Auburn will be to not only make strides in Year 2, but the better equipped the team will be to finish those close, late-season games instead of folding in crunch time.


“If you’re trying to get further, and you’re trying to move along and improve and get there faster, then you need to have people that will actually follow,” Harsin said. “… I think we’re in a better spot. There’s respect. And I think there’s trust. And I think the players, they really want to make progress.”


Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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