After head coach Bryan Harsin impressed at the SEC Media Days podium yesterday, it was the turn of three Tigers superstars to field questions. As is tradition, each SEC team invites three teammates to the conference. And Auburn did not disappoint, bringing key leaders Tank Bigsby, Derrick Hall and John Samuel Schenker to Atlanta. A little more relaxed than the grilling the coaches get, no question was off the table. Here are some of the best moments as they proudly represented Auburn University for ‘talking season’:
Tank Bigsby: ‘You Have To Be A Different Man To Be In This Program’
Running back Tank Bigsby broke the 1,000 yard rushing mark last year. And he was suitably rewarded by being recently named on the Maxwell Award watchlist ahead of the coming season. The bruising ball carrier was asked about his dalliance with the transfer portal this offseason, and why he decided to stay on The Plains. Bigsby declared his love for the university, and left no doubt as to his dedication to the team and the new culture under Bryan Harsin:
“When I came to Auburn as a freshman in 2020, I just felt like this school is different. After my sophomore season, I felt the same way. I want to change and do the things I need to do for Auburn. It’s a different program, and you have to be a different man to be in this program. A lot of people don’t like us, and a lot of people speak bad about us, but at the end of the day we have to come to play, and we have to be ready to play. That’s why I’m came to Auburn, and that’s why I’m still at Auburn. I feel like we’re doing to do what we have to do this year and handle our business.”
Auburn holds a special place in Tank Bigsby’s heart. He regaled the tale of how he and his family moved just 45 minutes away to the La Grange area once his mother married. And despite being just over the border in Georgia, he built some key relationships there. Those relationships helped him acclimate to college football, and wearing the famous blue and orange.
The inevitable questions about emulating NFL running backs elicited comparisons to Alvin Kamara, NIck Chubb and Dalvin Cook. But it was his respect for his head coach – and his teammates – through recent adversity that showed Bigsby’s maturity:
“We are playing hard for coach, but we’re playing hard for each other, for the team. The situation that went on brought us closer. It brought us closer as a team and as a family. We go out and play for each other and lay it all on the line and do everything we have to do to get a win.”
Derick Hall: ‘It Comes Down To The Little Things’
Senior defensive end Derick Hall spent his time in front of the microphone talking about his bond with his teammates. When asked about fellow pass rusher Eku Leota, Hall was full of praise:
“Leota is my right hand man. We train together, we work together. You know, we just talk, hang out, chill. Our relationship has definitely grown since the spring. We became very close. Big tight brothers. It seems like I’ve known him for forever, even though he’s only coming up on his second year at Auburn. The goals are still the same. My aspirations are still the same. We want to take this team to the next level on defense, so we have to come to work every day. We have to fulfill everything we said we were going to do.”
Hall was excited for the potential of the Auburn defense at almost every position. Safety Zion Puckett was ‘healthy, good, really smart’. Cornerback duo Nehemiah Pritchett and Jaylin Simpson are ‘doing a great job on the back end’. And of course, Owen Pappoe was predictably ‘getting his guys right’. When asked to single out one name who had stepped up during the summer, Hall was quick to name a fellow pass rusher. Redshirt freshman Dylan Brooks is ‘moving along well, his body has made changes, and he’s going to be a guy that really helps us out this year’.
When looking beyond the Auburn campus, Hall was asked which offensive line in the SEC was the toughest to go up against. Naturally, the current National Champions were singled out for praise:
“I would say Georgia. Alabama has those guys. They have Evan Neil, the center a few years ago who flattened me my freshman year. Alabama has a few guys, but Georgia is all across the board. They play hard. They are physical, they’re tough, they’re strong. Their line coach does a good job with those guys. They move around well. They try to hone in on the small things to help you beat guys like that, because we lead as a D line and they lead as an O line. It comes down to the little things, little match ups that you find. So, I would have to say Georgia.”
John Samuel Schenker: ‘People Can Say What They Want. They’re Not In The Locker Room’
Tight end John Samuel Schenker is primed for a big year in Bryan Harsin’s offense. The head coach utilized the position heavily at Boise State, and has suggested the same is coming at Auburn. Having the senior at Media Days gave us an insight into his thoughts on how his head coach has changed the culture of this program:
“Well, I think that’s also a testament to Coach Harsin and some of the things we went through. Coming from the season last year and all the guys that are coming back. Knowing where Auburn needs to be and where we were, and I think guys are realizing that. With Derrick Hall and Tank, as well knowing we belong at the top. That’s where our push is. People can say what they want, but they’re not in the locker room. They’re not at practice every day. We believe what we’re doing in the offseason has created momentum, positivity, and what we’re ready to do this fall.”
Schenker alluded to the alignment between head coach and new offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau. He explained how their shared history looks set to improve the offensive output in 2022:
“I think it’s a little bit easier this year with Eric Kiesau, because they’re on the same page. They’ve been together for a while now. They see that. And now we get to be a part of that. I think with Eric Kiesau there’s a whole different dimension of communication. Allowing all of us to be on the same page and pushing towards the same goal. And to be on that same page is really beneficial for our offense. Like Tank said, there’s an added run emphasis as well. But I also think it creates better communication with our wide receivers and tight ends.”
Demonstrating some diplomacy, Schenker didn’t state which quarterback looked set to start for The Tigers this Fall. But as a close observer, he seemed excited for what the group could bring to the passing game:
“Yeah, absolutely. It’s a testament of those guys. They work so hard. They’re also in the rooms and talking with the coaches just trying to better themselves. Especially during this quarterback battle. We’ll see that as fall camp starts. This is where all the hard work pays off. We’ll see that battle as it convenes. We’ll see what happens as we push through into the season.”
Talking season is officially over folks. Next stop: Big Cat Weekend. WDE!
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