Five Auburn players with the most to prove against Akron

·3 min read

The Bryan Harsin era will officially begin this weekend, but it will be another two weeks before Auburn will face its first test.

Auburn opens the season with two home games against Akron and Alabama State before traveling to Penn State in the third week. Neither of the first two games should be competitive, as Akron is expected to be one of the worst FBS teams in the country and Alabama State is an FCS program. Auburn is simply in a different class of football than the two.

That does not mean Auburn shouldn’t take the games seriously. Also, there will still be plenty to learn as the coaches and players try to work out the kinks of a new season and a brand-new system. Here are five players with something to prove in the opening game against Akron.

Bo Nix

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Nix is entering his third year as the starter but is adjusting to a new offence and would benefit greatly from a big game. Akron should provide a chance for him to do that as they were one of the worst defenses in FBS last year. The Zips finished 123rd out of 127 FBS teams in scoring defense (41.3 points per game), 110th in total defense (459.8 yards per game) and 120th in rushing defense (248.2 yards per game). They also gave up an FBS-worst 7.56 yards per play last season, including 6.26 yards per rush attempt and 10 yards per pass attempt, which was also last in the country. The offense should have no problem moving the ball against Akron and Nix will look to get a boost of confidence to start the season.

Nehemiah Pritchett

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Cornerback is perhaps the deepest position on the team with Pritchett, Jaylin Simpson, and Ro Torrence all battling it out to start alongside Roger McCreary. Pritchett lost the starting battle to Simpson last season before a foot injury forced Simpson out and Pritchett stepped in and thrived. This offseason when Dreshun Miller transferred in he was expected to become the No. 2 corner but instead, Pritchett has won the starting job. A big performance from Pritchett could help lock up his role as the No. 2 corner.

Ja’Varrius Johnson

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Johnson is entering his third season on the team but has yet to catch a pass or record any stat. Despite that, the sophomore was named the starting H receiver as well as the primary punt returner. Johnson was Auburn’s most consistent receiver since spring and will look to bring that to a position that has plenty of talent but little experience. The matchup with Akron will provide a chance for Johnson to catch his first passes and prove he deserves to be a starter regardless of his previous production.

Derick Hall

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Hall is poised to become the breakout player of the defense in his starting role. He closed the season with 21 pressures and 3.5 sacks across his final six games. Hall should spend a large portion of his afternoon in the Akron backfield as he begins his junior season with a huge game.

Brandon Council

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Council is making his return from a mid-season ACL injury as well as offseason shoulder surgery. Adding even more intrigue, he is doing so against the team he played for from 2016-19 and is still close with several of their players. Council is currently a co-starter at left guard with Alec Jackson, last year's starting left tackle. This is a battle that will certainly last through the first two games and may take even longer but a strong showing against his former teammates could put Council ahead of Jackson.

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