Tell Auburn football fans how you really feel, Mr. Shepard.
Brad Shepard, in his latest Bleacher Report piece previewing the top college football storylines to watch this Spring, listed the new era on the Plains as one of the “other eras beginning”.
His comments were terse but did not lack disrespect for the Auburn football program and what has been put together both under Bryan Harsin and the Gus Malzahn regime that ended this past December.
Bryan Harsin is stepping into a tough situation at Auburn, where Gus Malzahn left him quarterback Bo Nix, running back Tank Bigsby and not much else.
The Tigers defense ranked in the top half of college football in 2020 despite missing Big Kat Bryant for much of the year and seeing Chandler Wooten opt-out of the season due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bryant has moved on to the UCF Knights (along with plenty of other Malzahn holdovers) while Wooten returns after a recent Iron Man of the Week performance in spring practice.
Being a top-64 defense is never the end goal, but Auburn’s defense had two top-50 finishes in tackles per game with Zakoby McClain (35th) and Owen Pappoe (43rd) both representing Kevin Steele’s defense.
Then there’s Smoke Monday, who FanSided’s John Buehler sees as one of the top ball-hawks in college football:
That star playmaker is safety Smoke Monday. Though he has one of the coolest names in the SEC, he is also one of the finest defensive backs the Power 5 conference has to offer.
In 2020, Monday totaled 73 tackles with one sack.
Including the aforementioned trio in the “not much else” category seems dubious at best and offensive at worst.
Then again, as an admitted Tennesee Volunteers lover, perhaps Shepard is projecting his sour feelings about what was a true disaster on Rocky Top onto the Plains…which has plenty more reasons to be optimistic about 2021 and beyond.