In Auburn, Alabama, gameday is just over 48 hours away. After an extremely protracted offseason, the Tigers are getting ready to play for the first time. Let’s look at several players to keep an eye on versus the Bears as Week 1 draws near.
Tar’varish Dawson / Wide Receiver
Ja’Varrius Johnson, the former starter, lost out to Dawson for the position of starting slot receiver. It’s obvious that “Chick” has demonstrated some outstanding abilities over the offseason. The receiving core should be entertaining to watch regardless, but Tar’varish Dawson has the most excitement surrounding him. Tar’varish Dawson has been renown for being a silky, fluid route runner with the ability to create separation. It will be intriguing to see if “Chick” can be that player for the Tigers as Auburn seeks to identify their number one wideout.
TJ Finley has been chosen as the starting quarterback, yes. I do believe we will see at least two quarterbacks, though. Since Mercer isn’t a particularly strong opponent, I believe Robby Ashford will get a chance to demonstrate his dual-threat potential at some point throughout the game. Watching the “new and improved” TJ Finley take charge of the Auburn offense will be intriguing. But until he can show that he is that guy, Finley will be on a short leash every time he takes the field. In the event that Ashford starts the season as a dual-threat quarterback, I’m sure Auburn supporters will go crazy. Social media that evening will no doubt be fun.
Tate Johnson / Offensive Lineman
Sixth-year senior Nick Brahmas will be replaced at the center position by Tate Johnson. Johnson weighs 285 pounds, which is a tad underweight for an offensive lineman, but head coach Bryan Harsin commends Johnson’s strength despite his small stature, saying he is “plenty strong enough for the position.” Few believed Tate Johnson had a chance to start at the beginning of fall camp, but with Nick Brahms’ injury, a slot became available, and Johnson displayed the “next man up” mindset. It should be intriguing to see how this offensive line and Tate Johnson fare in his debut start.
Jeffrey M’Ba / Defensive Lineman
French defensive lineman Jeffrey M’Ba was rated as the best (JUCO) defensive lineman last year. M’Ba simply needs a bit more polish but possesses all the necessary qualities to develop into a top defensive lineman. For two-time starting lineman Marcus Harris, M’Ba was named as his back-up. M’Ba will likely play in the game, though, as the coaching staff will likely be interested in seeing what he is capable of. The defensive line room is loaded in my perspective, so if Jeffrey M’Ba performs as expected, SEC offensive lineman better watch out.
Cam Riley / Linebacker
Another fall camp standout, and this time it wasn’t surprising, was Cam Riley. Riley is a linebacker from Greenville, Alabama, who is extremely long and athletic. Throughout the off-season, he’s shown special abilities that helped him land the starting position. The challenge of replacing former starter Zakoby McClain falls to Cam Riley. The linebacker room is largely lacking in experience. Due to the LB rotation, Wesley Steiner and Eugene Asante are other players to pay attention to.
Anders Carlson / Kicker
The final Tiger to be on the lookout for is Anders Carlson, the kicker. Before injuring his ACL a year ago, Carlson was a standout; it will be intriguing to watch how he has recovered. Auburn fans, I know, want to see Anders Carlson back in good health.
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