Breaking down Auburn football’s upcoming ‘3-man competition’ at center
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And I'll ask an oldie but goodie – is AU's starting center already on the team? Is it between Caleb Kim and Nick Brahms, or can another current player get in the mix? Can a frosh start at center in the SEC?
— tntiger2 (@tntiger2) January 15, 2018
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn football used two different players at center in 2017 — the ultra-versatile Austin Golson and two-time FCS All-American Casey Dunn. Both of those players have expired their eligibility, so the Tigers will have a new “second quarterback” in 2018.
Auburn has options, but there isn’t much experience to go around. In fact, two of the players set to compete for playing time at center this offseason haven’t played a down of college football yet.
Auburn incoming freshman Jalil Irvin said after his official visit this past weekend that coaches told him there would be a “three-man competition” at center. Junior Kaleb Kim, redshirt freshman Nick Brahms and Irvin comprise the trio of options on campus.
Kim has appeared in nine games over the last two seasons following his redshirt in 2015. He will be a fourth-year junior, and he has plenty of experience in terms of practice reps. However, Kim also worked at both guard spots during fall practices last year.
Brahms took a redshirt in 2017 after missing all of his senior season of high school with a devastating leg injury. Still, Brahms impressed coaches enough to be named the scout team offensive player of the year in December. He did a lot of great work against Auburn’s excellent first-team defensive line, primarily at center.
“Nick Brahms, really, he’s got something to him,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said in December. “He’s got some fight to him, got a lot of courage.”
Irvin, whenever he arrives on campus, will be at least a third option for the Tigers to consider at center. Those choices probably won’t force Auburn’s hand when it comes to recruiting a graduate transfer such as Dunn, unless a highly touted one comes on the market.
According to Keith Niebhur of Auburn Undercover, Auburn has reportedly made contact with at least one graduate transfer on the offensive line. However, the reported names have been at offensive tackle, not center.
SEC Country’s projection of Auburn’s two-deep depth chart earlier this week had Brahms lining up as the first-team center in 2018. Brahms’ scout-team work and high praise from his coaches make him the ideal candidate to be the offensive line’s centerpiece this fall.
Could the Tigers rely on a redshirt freshman to play center in the SEC? Malzahn already has before.
Reese Dismukes signed with Auburn in 2011 and started at center later that year. Dismukes started in all 50 games he played with the Tigers, which included an SEC championship campaign in 2013. He developed into a Rimington Award winner — the only one in Auburn’s history. (Dismukes also finished his career under J.B. Grimes, who Auburn hired to replace Herb Hand on Wednesday.)
Dismukes was a higher-rated recruit, but he also didn’t miss his entire senior season with an injury. Brahms will have the advantage of having a redshirt year to adapt his body to the college game and learn the offense. If the Tigers want a more experienced option, Kim has taken snaps there in college games.
Whoever wins the starting job should have the advantage of playing next to two experienced guards in Mike Horton and Marquel Harrell. That’ll be important as Auburn reloads in front of all the skill position talent it returns.
Unless something unforeseen happens on the recruiting trail between now and the fall, Auburn looks set with its three-man race at center.