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When Auburn football takes the field against UMass on September 2, 2023, it is going to look very different than it did at the same time just one year prior. Not only did it swap out Bryan Harsin for Hugh Freeze at head coach, the Tigers’ roster was rebuilt on a pretty significant level.
In today’s era of college football, it is not uncommon for programs to undergo an overhaul. It’s happening all across the country. Colorado is the most extreme example, but Auburn isn’t that far behind.
With the transfer portal being what it is, a new head coach — who is typically hired in December like Freeze — is essentially able to start from scratch. The first transfer window opens right after conference championship weekend and closes in January. The second transfer window opens in April and closes at the end of the month.
As a first-year head coach, the first window provides the opportunity to sweep up as much talent as possible. The second window allows coaches to fine-tune based on more specific needs.
Both windows give a first-year head coach the chance to acquire ready-to-play athletes with experience that he is excited about. In the past, a first-year head coach would be forced to work with the hand that he was dealt from the previous staff.
None of this is particularly revolutionary thinking. It’s commonplace in the modern game.
Hugh Freeze and Auburn are the perfect example.
The offense that he sends out on the first drive of his first year could look completely different than the one that Harsin sent out in his final game. Freeze only needs an interior offensive lineman to make that happen.
Here is how the Tigers offense could line up after fall camp:
- Quarterback — Payton Thorne (Michigan State)
- Running Back — Brian Battie (South Florida)
- X Wide Receiver — Nick Mardner (Cincinnati)
- Y Wide Receiver — Caleb Burton (Ohio State)
- Z Wide Receiver — Jyaire Shorter (North Texas)
- Tight End — Rivaldo Fairweather (Florida International)
- Tackle — Gunner Britton (Western Kentucky)
- Guard — Jaden Muskrat (Tulsa)
- Center — Avery Jones (East Carolina)
- Guard — ?????
- Tackle — Dillon Wade (Tulsa)
There are still more than 50 interior offensive lineman with three-star status or higher who are currently in the transfer portal and have not committed to a new program. Auburn could potentially field an entire offense that was not on the team as of January 1.
That has never happened before. Not all 11 guys. Pretty wild!
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