After an offseason full of turmoil, Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin and the three players who joined him for the trip to Atlanta for SEC Media Days voiced their confidence for the upcoming season.
The difference between this upcoming season and last season, according to Tank Bigsby and Derick Hall, is the mindset. With a tool like NIL potentially creating off-field distractions, Hall said the team is completely focused on football and will not let NIL distract them from it.
“NIL is good for college football,” Hall said. “But it doesn’t bring division in our locker room. We really don’t discuss it. We don’t discuss how much this guy makes, how much that guy makes. We just go to work everyday, and it’s always football first.”
Harsin also alluded to more leaders stepping up this season. He explained how veterans Hall, Bigsby and tight end John Samuel Shenker are all leaders among the team, which is why they were brought to Atlanta, but most notably said he has been impressed with the vocal presence of the newcomers - specifically Koy Moore.
Moore, a wide receiver transfer from rival LSU, won praise from Harsin and the players all day.
“He wants to be here and wants to help us win,” Harsin said. “He’s got a little bit of experience and has helped some of those younger wide receivers.”
Bigsby echoed that praise for Moore later in the day when talking about the receiver’s work ethic.
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“I see him out there catching at nine o’clock in the facility at night,” Bigsby said. “Catching balls by himself and doing drills, running routes with Zach Calzada.”
Bigbsy said that type of work is contagious and makes the team stronger.
“When one guy sees somebody work, they're going to go work,” Bigsby said. “And that’s where I feel like we worked so hard to get to this point.”
In February, an investigation of the program was conducted that saw Harsin’s job security threatened. Rumors flew, but ultimately, Harsin kept his job. On Thursday, Harsin used his opening statement to briefly describe the details of the inquiry and how it affected him.
"Going back to what happened back in February, what I'm going to do now is address it,” Harsin said. “Moving forward, that will be the last time I talk about this subject. There was an inquiry. It was uncomfortable. It was unfounded. It presented an opportunity for people to personally attack me, my family, and also our program. And it didn't work.”
Despite the distractions, the players remained steadfast and persevered through the uncertainty. Now Auburn’s representatives at SEC media days are saying the situation actually resulted in them growing closer as a team - rallying around their head coach.
“It most definitely brought us together as a team,” Hall said. “Shenker, myself and Tank included went to the board, talked to the board and the president of the university just to give our respect and our support for Coach Harsin. It definitely brought the team closer together after that all went down because we knew the work we were putting in and the hard work we were putting together and Coach Harsin was right there with us all the way, so we wanted him to be here with us and we’re blessed to have him at Auburn.”
With the offseason drama plus Auburn likely being projected to finish near the bottom of its division, the team has a new sense of togetherness and seems to be taking on the underdog role.
"A lot of people don't like us,” Bigsby said. “A lot of people speak bad about us, but at the end of the day you have to play, and we're going to be ready to play."
With a number of transfers and freshmen making their way to the Plains, that togetherness will be essential if the team is to overcome the external underestimations.
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