Every Monday and Thursday, Plainsman sports staffers Zach Tantillo and Nathan King will analyze an Auburn football player who has a chance to make a sizable impact on the team next season.
What seems to be the biggest offseason challenge is the impending replacement of the four senior starters from Auburn's offensive line.
Now, arguably the most important position on the offensive line is the left tackle, as it is key to protecting the quarterback’s blind side and protecting the edge from college football’s most elusive rushers.
That is where Prince Tega Wanogho steps in.
Wanogho earned the starting nod at left tackle last season and played a key role in the Joe Moore Award finalist unit, starting in seven games and making appearances in all 14. He was a big part of a unit that was one of the best run-blocking teams in the country.
In this play, Wanogho (76) displays his speed and athleticism becoming the lead blocker for a Kerryon Johnson touchdown against No. 1 Georgia.
According to Football Outsiders, Auburn’s offensive line was a top-10 unit in power success rate and stuff rate. Power success rate is percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Auburn’s offensive line placed fifth in the nation, posting an 80.6 percent power success rate.
Stuff rate is percentage of carries by running backs that are stopped at or before the line of scrimmage. Auburn placed ninth in the country at just 14.8 percent.
But opening running lanes was not the issue for Wanogho and the rest of the unit as Auburn was one of the worst pass-protection teams in 2017, placing 100th in the country for sacks allowed. The poor protection peaked in Wanogho’s worst performance of the season against Clemson, where Auburn allowed 11 sacks.
Wanogho’s size at 6-foot-7, 307 pounds and athleticism -- as a former basketball player and defensive end -- never came into question last season. Most of Wanogho’s issues in pass protection can be solved by better fundamentals, better footwork and hand placement that caused breakdowns in protections at times.
In this play, Wanogho can be seen at the bottom of the offensive line as a quicker rusher tries to use to his speed to get by him. Wanogho uses his quick feet and size to fend the rusher away giving Stidham time to throw the touchdown to Will Hastings.
These issues have been the main focal point for offensive line coach J.B. Grimes and Wanogho in the spring.
"He’s got all of the ability, the biggest thing with him is he’s got to learn how to use his hands better,” Grimes said. "Then he’s got to learn to get his feet, you know as your toe goes, so goes your shoulders. As your toe turns, your shoulder and your hips are going to turn. We’ve got to get them to where they’re more square in everything that we do.”
Wanogho has made strides in the spring, even getting all-conference praise from coaches.
“Really excited on what he could be,” Grimes said about Wanogho. “I think he’s ascending to an all-conference type player.”
With Braden Smith and Austin Golson both graduating, there is a missing vocal leader from the offensive line. Wanogho has stepped in nicely to the role and is taking just more than a lead-by-example leadership position.
Wanogho has used the spring to improve on everything that he struggled with last season, and it just so happens his position coach specializes in those areas.
Grimes’ attention to the little things and Wanogho’s raw talent, athleticism and size will give quarterback Jarrett Stidham a sigh of relief, knowing that Wanogho will be protecting his blind side.
By the time Auburn kicks off against Washington on September 1, expect Wanogho to have locked up the left tackle position and become one of the better left tackles in the SEC.
Catch up on previous installments of the Fortune Teller series: