Many Auburn fans remember it well. Nursing a 10-3 lead and facing second down and 11 with 1:54 left to play, the Tigers opted to hand the ball to Tank Bigsby to drain the clock or force Alabama to take its final timeout. Neither happened as Bigsby was dragged out of bounds, and the stop ultimately gave the Crimson Tide the ball one last time.
Eight months later, a lot has changed. Between the unfounded allegations of misconduct by head coach Bryan Harsin and Bigsby's uncertain future in Auburn's offense, there was no shortage of offseason drama. Throw in low expectations set for Auburn by many in sports media, and one would think the sky was falling on the Loveliest Village on the Plains.
Despite the negative press, the preseason All-SEC First Team running back is primed for a monster season.
After accounting for nearly 1,300 yards of total offense and 10 touchdowns last season, one could understand if Bigsby stuck with what got him there. Yet, according to Harsin at SEC media days, he might be the most improved player on the team.
“In preparation, leadership and some of the things we’ve seen from a really good, young player, and his work ethic is second to none,” Harsin said. “He’s put in the work, he does it on the off days, Sundays, every chance he gets.”
That work ethic is what has earned him the accolades, and after an 1,000-yard rushing season, the junior is digging for more.
“[I’m] just doing the little things and making sure I do everything right, like I can, and always carrying myself in the manner that I need to be,” Bigsby said. “That’s what I’ve been doing this summer: coming to work and being a team player first.”
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Before signing with Auburn as part of the 2020 recruiting class, Bigsby was a consensus four-star recruit and top-five running back nationally. At a school that produced Bo Jackson, Cadillac Williams and Tre Mason, among others, he was expected to follow in their footsteps.
Things quickly changed, however. Wholesale changes to the coaching staff during the offseason and an up-and-down sophomore campaign that saw the Tigers win six of their first eight games, then lose their final five, thrusts Bigsby into a leadership role on an offense with many newcomers around him.
“When I came to Auburn in 2020, I just felt like this school is different, and after my sophomore season it’s the same thing,” Bigsby said. “Coming into Auburn, it was different, it’s a different program, and you have to be a different man to be in this program.”
Entering his third season with the program, expectations are as high as they have ever been. In a season where the Tigers are without an incumbent starter at quarterback for the first time since 2019, the offense is expected to initially be carried by the ground game.
Throw in an experienced offensive line that returns three starters from last season and is full of redshirt juniors and seniors, and there are plenty of reasons why Bigsby is primed to shoulder the load this season.
However, for Bigsby, this season is not about personal accolades, individual heroics or carrying an offense that he does not believe will need to be carried by him once cleat meets leather on Sep. 3 in Jordan-Hare. It is about the strength of the team and the work they have collectively put in to return the program to the upper ranks of college football.
“The confidence is there, it’s all about worrying about getting the job done. What it takes to get the job done, coming together and playing with the team, that’s what it’s going to take to win," Bigsby said. "When the team comes together and plays together, that’s when we’re at our best, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
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