Over the next few weeks, SEC Country will take Auburn football fans to Summer School. Each session will focus on one position on Auburn’s 2018 roster, finding answers from spring practice and looking ahead to what might be the biggest questions for the fall.
This week, we’ll flip back over to offense and take a closer look at the line.
- Prince Tega Wanogho (junior)
- Bailey Sharp (junior)
- Prince Sammons (sophomore)
Answers from spring practice
Is Prince Tega Wanogho the favorite to take over at left tackle?
Wanogho started the first four games of the 2017 season at left tackle. While he struggled with pass protection early, he was much stronger in that department when he returned to the lineup in the second half of the season due to injuries elsewhere on the line.
The Nigerian-born tackle has several starts of experience on the left side, but his skill set could easily translate to the right. Before spring practice, speculation arose that he could go over there and open up the left side for former 5-star Calvin Ashley. But offensive line coach J.B. Grimes kept Wanogho at left tackle, and he’s stayed solid as the man to beat on that side.
What does Wanogho need to work on as a left tackle?
The story is well-known by now — Wanogho only had one year of high school football experience but did enough at defensive end and tight end to become a 4-star prospect coveted by SEC programs. A senior-year injury and a redshirt year gave way to a move to the offensive line for Wanogho, who got his first action in 2016 as a blocking tight end in jumbo packages.
According to Grimes, Wanogho has the physical gifts to become an All-SEC talent at left tackle. The finer details of playing the offensive line are a work in progress. Hand placement was a top focus in spring practice. Fortunately for Wanogho, Grimes is a technique-first coach who should be the perfect match for his development.
Number to know
7: Wanogho started seven games last season for Auburn, which makes him the most experienced offensive tackle for the reloading Tigers front. Auburn went 5-2 in those games in 2017.
Questions for fall
Can Wanogho become an elite offensive tackle for Auburn?
Wanogho is in an important spot for the Tigers in 2018. Auburn will most likely pass more than it did in 2017, with quarterback Jarrett Stidham returning and a deep, experienced group of receivers under offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. While shotgun-based offenses make strong pass blocking a necessity for both sides of the offensive line, Wanogho is still the one who has to protect Stidham’s blind side.
When Stidham faced considerable pressure last season, Auburn’s offense suffered. Stidham will be expected to get better at facing a pass rush in 2018, but the Tigers have to do a better job at keeping his pocket clean. A lot of that will fall on the shoulders of Wanogho, the most experienced tackle in a fresh-faced bunch.
What would happen if Wanogho went down with an injury this fall?
Grimes has said he is not a mix-and-match type of offensive line coach, but it remains to be seen what his plan would be if one of his players was injured. Would Auburn automatically go to the next left tackle on the depth chart in the event of a Wanogho injury? Bailey Sharp is a veteran reserve with six games of experience, while Prince Sammons only has one game to his name.
Auburn has multiple players still battling it out at right tackle, and UMass transfer Jack Driscoll has joined the fold, as well. With this being such an important position on the offensive line, Auburn will want to get its Plan B absolutely right.