HOOVER, Ala. – The final day of 2021 SEC Media Days and a new face was one of the coaches on the hot seat today.
Bryan Harsin replaces Guz Malzahn as head coach of the Auburn Tigers and Harsin’s a guy with plenty of head coaching experience. But none in the SEC.
Calling him a Boise native wouldn’t even cut it, he was born and raised there, played quarterback at Boise State and then became the first alumni of the school to lead the Broncos as head football coach.
He’s led Boise since 2014, finished with a 69-19 over all record and won three Mountain West Championships.
So now, Harsin is a 33-hour drive away from home.
“The biggest adjustment now is everybody always asks me ‘are you ready for the humidity?’ And ya know what I am, I don’t know that yet but in my mind, I’ve prepared myself. I’ve heard it so much that I am. I’ve been in 3-degree weather games where I’ve got vaseline on my face and I’m drinking chicken broth in between series and all that. I’m ready for the humidity.” Harsin said about the biggest difference between Boise and Auburn. “Being in this conference, being at a place like Auburn football is really important. I love it. Football was really important at other places I’ve been but here it’s really important. It makes you wanna show up every single day and do whatever you can to get your team prepared.”
Harsin is used to the winning ways but it’s a new year in a new conference. He has a game plan though to tackle SEC football.
“We’re getting ready for September 4th against Akron. That is the focus at Auburn. I know the other games we play. I know the other teams on the schedule, but you’ve got to win the first one. You’ve got to go out there and put on the field your very best performance so we can evaluate that and learn from it. So that is our number one focus,” Harsin said.
Even though the coach is new, the Tigers have some key guys from last season coming back, including quarterback Bo Nix.
Getting a new head coach certainly takes some adjustment and Nix plays a major role in helping that transition go smoothly. Nix said there is no added stress for him as he goes into his third year.
“I’m just confident. I think the pressure is a privilege and so all the added pressure is just more of an honor to be at Auburn playing quarterback. I really am blessed to be here to be in this position cause I know there’s so many people that could be. I grew up kinda understanding being Auburn’s quarterback would have a lot of pressure. Last season at times we struggled I think it was a great year of growth,” Nix said.
There is also some new blood recently transferred to the Tigers. Back in May, TJ Finley, transferred from LSU to Auburn and it raised some eyebrows. Finley start five games for the Bayou Bengals in 2020 throwing five touchdowns and five picks.
So, the question on many people’s minds, is Bo Nix the guy or do we have a bit of a quarterback competition on our hands?
“Every year that I coached quarterbacks there’s a quarterback competition and here’s what I mean by that,” Coach Harsin explained. “You have your returners, they’ve played, proven themselves and been in games like that. You also have guys that are hungry to play. We will have a pecking order. Bo will start when we get to camp, he’ll be the first guy that rolls out there. TJ Finley will have a chance to run with the ones as well. Grant Loy will have his chance to run with the ones as well I’ve always done it that way.”
On the other side of the ball, Auburn has added Derek Mason as its defensive coordinator. The Tiger’s defense has taken some hits with Big Kat Bryant and Daquan Newkirk transferring out and Jamien Sherwood opting to forgo his senior season.
Owen Pappoe is one of the leaders of the defensive unit that ranked 6th in the SEC in 2020. The Tigers looking to build off that and be better in 2021.
“Spring went really good for us. There was a lot of similarities to Kevin Steele’s defense so guys kind of picked up on everything really fast so the transition went very smooth. Gonna be able to play fast, show a lot of range as a linebacker for me I actually love it man being able to run out there and make a lot of plays. This year a big thing that we’re talking about. We had a team meeting not too long ago. just bringing change to Auburn, blocking out the noise. We know everyone is counting us out so just being able to come up and just shock people I think we’ll be able to shock people this season so that’s how we coming,” Pappoe said about Mason.
Another big topic at SEC Media Days – Name, Image and Likeness deals. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the NIL deals is Auburn quarterback Bo Nix.
Nix will go down in the history books as one of the first student-athletes to sign a NIL Deal after signing with Milo’s Tea at midnight on July 1st.
“Allowing other people to use it and to benefit those players, those athletes, I think it’s valuable, but with Milo’s, it was just a mutual agreement. Obviously, it may be stuck with me forever, but eventually, somebody else will sign something that will be the topic or I’ll sign somewhere else and that will be the new topic. So, it’s just all evolving but like I said it’s a great opportunity.” Nix said about his deal.
Auburn’s first game of the season will be at Jordan-Hare against the Akron Zips on September 4th.