Auburn football: Transfer portal could save the Bryan Harsin era

The transfer portal could save Auburn football HC Bryan Harsin's HC tenure Mandatory Credit: The Montgomery Advertiser
The transfer portal could save Auburn football HC Bryan Harsin's HC tenure Mandatory Credit: The Montgomery Advertiser /

Auburn football HC Bryan Harsin signed up for a difficult job becoming the head coach of the main rival of the very top teams in the nation. AU is uniquely positioned between a rock and a hard place as Alabama’s in-state blood rival and Georgia’s inter-SEC division yearly bloodbath.

Still, few could have predicted the impact NIL would have on the newly formed transfer portal ‘free-agent market’ that resulted from the NCAA changing eligibility requirements to allow players to immediately play with a new program the following fall upon transfer.

Harsin’s arrival was almost ill-timed because of that. The top recruits, who the new NIL rules most obvious effect, are valuing stability. Gus Malzahn’s program was not the most spectacularly exciting to recruits, but they knew what they were getting when visiting the Plains. Harsin’s time in Auburn began during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic changed the recruiting guidelines even further, and there’s been a rapid overhaul between last year’s coaching staff and this one. It’s hard for recruits to commit to a coaching staff they don’t know will be back next season.

With Auburn football ranking below six of their 2022 opponents for their Class of 2022, it’s easily apparent how difficult it is to be a top program in the SEC West as a school that shares its primary recruiting territory with Nick Saban and Kirby Smart.

Luckily, the Tigers have mastered a key component of recruiting that has far more immediate effects than either recruiting class out of high school Harsin has landed thus far during his AU HC stint.

The transfer portal could save the Bryan Harsin era of Auburn football

Harsin has been efficient in the transfer portal, essentially rebuilding a defense that lost key pieces like Zakoby McClain, Smoke Monday, and second-round 2022 NFL Draft pick Roger McCreary.

Counting the addition of former Western Kentucky transfer EDGE rusher Marcus Bragg, who committed to Auburn on Father’s Day, the Tigers have restocked their defensive depth chart with the preceding additions of Oregon’s D.J. James and Jayson Jones as well as Iowa State’s Craig McDonald. The offense will also almost assuredly feature a transfer arm under center with Zach Calzada, and his WR room will now feature fellow transfers Koy Moore and Dazalin Worsham.

If the Tigers can win enough games in 2022 for Harsin to remain HC, it will be because of the work he has done in the transfer portal following a disappointing conclusion to the 2021 campaign.