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A spirit that is not afraid

Owen Pappoe's status for Ole Miss still up in the air

<p>Owen Pappoe ahead of a game against Akron on Sept. 4, 2021, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.</p>

Owen Pappoe ahead of a game against Akron on Sept. 4, 2021, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.

Auburn's defense has been missing one of its most productive tacklers and one of its highest motored players the last four games of the season with an injury to linebacker Owen Pappoe.

Pappoe, a starter on defense and a team captain who totaled 93 tackles last season for the Tigers, has been out  for the better of five weeks after going down with a lower-body injury in Auburn's loss to Penn State on the road in early September.

Head coach Bryan Harsin has been hopeful for Pappoe's return for a few games now, but the bye week might have given the junior the proper time he needs to come back for Auburn's Top-20 Halloween weekend SEC West matchup against Ole Miss on Oct. 30.

“I hope he’s ready to go,” Harsin said Wednesday on a weekly SEC coaches teleconference. “We need him. I think this is a good time, at least for him, with this bye week to really give us a chance [to get him healthy].”

Pappoe has yet to practice with the team in full capacity since sustaining his injury and was said to have been continuously evaluated throughout the bye week to gauge his readiness for next week's preparation for Saturday's game. 

“I know Owen wants to be out there, there’s no question about that,” Harsin said. “Owen wants to play. He wants to be with his team. He’s done everything he can just standing on the sideline to help his teammates out, and when he’s on the practice field, when he’s out there, he’s coaching guys up. 

He’s into it, and I know he wants to play. So hopefully this week is the week where we can get him to the point where he can play at the level he needs to play at.”

Senior linebacker Chandler Wooten has stepped up in place of the injured Pappoe and has more than held his own in one of the more reactionary position groups on the defense. Wooten opted out of last year's football season with concern for his new-born son, but has come back with the full on-field ability he left with, and then some.

Alongside talented senior Zakoby McClain, the two Tigers are the team's season leaders in tackles with 53 for McClain and 52 for Wooten entering next week's SEC West battle. McClain was the SEC leader in tackles last season with a career-high 113 tackles.

“Chandler, Zakoby — those two guys have been very good for us,” Harsin said. “They’ve been playing, I think, some really really good football. And when we get Owen back in the mix, that’s going to help in that rotation.

We’re still sharpening ourselves every day, but we’re also trying to be smart about making sure guys get a little bit of a chance to recover and really maximize and spend a ton of time on that. Owen’s no different, so my hope is that he’s going to be ready to go by Ole Miss.”

While it's unclear if the extra week off was enough time to get Pappoe back into the starting lineup for Ole Miss, the few extra days of rest might have been enough to get him back on the practice field and possibly ready to go for the road game in College Station against Texas A&M on Nov. 6.

Pappoe's ongoing status will continue to be monitored.

Larry Robinson | Photo Editor

Larry is a senior studying journalism with a minor in sociology. He is from Enterprise, Alabama and is in his third year with The Auburn Plainsman. 

Twitter: @ReportingLarry

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