Auburn football: Caleb Wooden unlikely to start at safety at season’s start

Auburn football will be leaning on both the upperclassmen that stuck around after the NFL Draft and didn’t bolt for the transfer portal, as well as incoming transfers that signed on the dotted line to join the ‘Harsinal’ on the Plains.

Tigers head coach Bryan Harsin has landed a nice haul in the 2022 transfer window after seeing his depth chart butchered in December and January by the portal’s downside. One of his biggest gets–Auburn Daily considers him the No. 3 transfer of the offseason–was Iowa State’s departed safety Craig McDonald.

The former Big 12 DB comes into the Tigers’ safety rotation at the expense of freshman Caleb Wooden, the brother of Colby Wooden, who is expected to begin the season as a backup pending any summer injuries.

McDonald, meanwhile, is expected to start this upcoming season alongside Zion Puckett as one of the Tigers’ primary safeties, according to 247Sports’ Nathan King:

“After spring practice, Bryan Harsin heavily targeted safety, wide receiver and defensive line as immediate positions of need for his Tigers. In McDonald’s case, Auburn grabbed a big, physical defensive back to throw into the mix for a starting safety role. True freshman Caleb Wooden was impressive in spring ball, but McDonald’s experience (17 career games) seems to lend itself to a starting job this fall.”

“Auburn Undercover depth chart projection: starter at safety alongside Zion Puckett.”

Auburn football HC Bryan Harsin has relied on the transfer portal this offseason

A new feature of the NCAA’s post-COVID-19/NIL era is the immediate transfer eligibility of a vast number of student athletes, and Bryan Harsin has played the transfer market well over his two years on the Plains.

Last offseason, he plucked a starting QB (TJ Finley) with SEC experience off the market and plugged him into the biggest game of the year (2021 Iron Bowl) under center and almost came away victorious. This year, he likely found Finley’s replacement (Zach Calzada) the same way, while also replenishing the secondary (McDonald, D.J. James) and trenches (Jayson Jones, Marcus Bragg, Morris Joseph Jr.) in the wake of NFL losses.

Should this be the last offseason Harsin ever gets in Auburn, he certainly did everything possible to improve the roster and put the best product on Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium.