AUBURN, ALABAMA – It’s game day at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn football will be hosting Kentucky in its season opener. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. CT. Phillip Marshall, Jason Caldwell, Mark Murphy and Keith Niebuhr will provide pregame news. The notebook will be regularly updated until the start of the game, which will be televised by the SEC Network.
AUBURN IS COVID-19, QUARANTINE FREE
After 40 days of questions, testing, more test, contact tracing and quarantining, Auburn’s football team is COVID-19 and quarantine free as it opens its season. Though some players have lost practice time, all are expected to be available.
It’s an astonishing accomplishment, considering Auburn’s uncompromising approach to following guidelines. The SEC has taken over testing the past two weeks. Before that, it was up to individual schools.
“There were some that didn’t test at all,” Auburn athletics director Allen Greene said during a Monday talk via Zoom with an Auburn group in Birmingham. “There were some schools that didn’t worry about student-athletes catching the virus or transmitting it. And there were some schools that went to extra lengths to keep people from catching it and spreading it.
“We were one of those schools that worked really hard, meaning we tested more frequently than a lot of schools did and sat people out for the appropriate amount of time.”
In the end, it paid off. There is no word on whether any Kentucky players will miss today’s game.
–Phillip Marshall and Jason Caldwell
HARDY OUT BECAUSE OF INJURY
Freshman defensive tackle Jay Hardy is not dressed out for today’s game because of an undisclosed injury. Hardy is wearing a boot. Freshmen Romello Height and Daniel Foster-Allen are also out because of injuries. None are COVID-related.
IS AUBURN’S OFFENSIVE LINE READY FOR PRIME TIME?
Has an offensive line ever been watched as closely as Auburn’s will be Saturday? Of the expected starters, only junior center Nick Brahms has previously started a game at Auburn. That has been the topic of discussion since the beginning of preseason camp and before.
Right tackle Brodarious Hamm hasn’t started, but he’s made a big enough impression when he had a chance to be voted second-team All-SEC by league coaches. Right guard Brandon Council is a graduate transfer who was a starter at Akron last season and has won praise throughout camp. Left guard Tayshawn Manning and left tackle Alec Jackson signed as defensive linemen and will get their first college football starts. Both are redshirt juniors.
AN UNPRECEDENTED ATMOSPHERE AT JORDAN-HARE
Somewhere around 18,000 fans, most of them students, will be allowed into Jordan-Hare Stadium today. With the help of piped in crowd noise, it will be up to them to create a homefield advantage. But they can only do so much. They can’t equal the atmosphere created by 87,000.
QB BO NIX BEGINS YEAR 2 AS THE STARTER
The pressure on Nix’s shoulders is immense. He’ll run an offense he hasn’t run before, and he’ll do it without the benefit of spring practice. He will be counted on to be the man who gets it done, even when things break down. He’ll have to do it behind an offensive line playing together for the first time. How effective he is will have a significant on who wins the game.
NEW STARTERS ON DEFENSE
Safeties Jamien Sherwood and Smoke Monday, cornerback Jaylin Simpson and tackle Colby Wooden are first-time starters on defense, but only Wooden lacks experience. Sherwood and Monday got a significant number of snaps as true freshmen in 2018 and even more last season. Wooden and Simpson are redshirt freshmen who played handfuls of snaps last season, but both had monstrous camps.
WHO WILL BE THE PUNTER?
Will it be Australian Oscar Chapman? Will it be prodigal Tiger Aiden Marshall? Malzahn hasn’t said. In fact, he said both could punt in today’s game. Chapman is immensely talented. Marshall was the starting punter in 2017, but left after being beat out by Arryn Siposs in 2018. Now he’s back, and he’s at least made the race closer than most expected.
Auburn’s punting could be important. Kentucky’s Max Duffy might be the nation’s best. Ha averaged more than 44.8 yards per punt last season and won the Ray Guy Award. He’s a weapon.
MALZAHN HONORING DYE
Gus Malzahn is wearing a “Pat Hat” and orange and blue tie, the preferred game-day garb former Auburn coach Pat Dye. The head coach of the Tigers from 1981-1992, the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium is named in the late coach’s honor, who passed away this spring. Dye won four SEC championships. Malzahn said it was important to him to honor a coach was such a big part of AU football history.
WALK-ON QBS DRESSED ?
Redshirt freshmen Trey Lindsey from Montgomery and true freshman Sawyer Pate from Albaster are on the dress squad with the scholarship QBs.
KENTUCKY’S STARTING QUARTERBACK
Kentucky quan rterback Terry Wilson, lost for the season to a knee injury in the third game last season, is back and healthy. As a sophomore in 2018, he started 13 games. He became the first Kentucky quarterback to pass for more than 1,500 yards and rush for more than 500 yards in the same season. Will he be rusty after going more than a year without playing?
EIGHT SEASONS FOR MALZAHN
Historically, Auburn coaches who have managed to last long enough been successful in their eighth seasons. Shug Jordan was 9-0-1 in 1959. Pat Dye was was 10-2 in 1986. Tommy Tuberville was 11-2 in 2006. Malzahn starts eighth season today.
FIRST OF 10 SEC GAMES
No team has ever played 10 SEC games in one season. The grueling road to an 11th SEC opponent in the championship game starts today. The case can be made that it will be the most grueling test of endurance in the history of college football.
While not all of the fans wore white for the “all white” game, the white is quite noticeable, especially with white shakers provided for the approximately 17,290 fans scattered throughout the stadium.
MISSING TIGHT END
Freshman Brandon Frazier was not on the field for pre-game warmups. The 6-7, 270 is listed as a co-No. 2 tight end. Walk-on Flynn Driscoll, the brother of former Tiger Jack Driscoll, warmed up.