AUBURN, Ala. — Braden Smith considered leaving school early for the NFL, but he’s staying on the Plains for another year with the Auburn offense.
On Wednesday evening, Smith told the program’s official website he would remain at Auburn for the 2017 season instead of turning pro a year early.
“I feel like we have a chance to do something special next year. It’s exciting,” Smith told Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com. “We have a bunch of people coming back. I feel like it’s going to be a really strong line next year.”
Smith has played in all 39 games of his Auburn career. He played as Auburn’s “sixth man” on the offensive line as a true freshman in 2013, serving as an extra tackle or blocking tight end in certain formations. Smith moved to right guard in 2014, where he’s started most of his 26 straight games in the lineup.
In 2016, Smith picked up second-team All-SEC honors. He paired up with senior right tackle Robert Leff to create one of the strongest run-blocking duos in the entire country.
With Smith’s return, Auburn will have three returning starters along the offensive line — left tackle Darius James, center Austin Golson and Smith. Left guard Alex Kozan and Leff exhausted their eligibility in 2016.
The Kansas native has the ability to play both tackle and guard in case Auburn wants to shuffle things around to replace Kozan and Leff. Smith started at right tackle in a win against Jacksonville State in 2015.
Smith told Goldberg he enjoyed developing in 2016 under first-year offensive line coach Herb Hand, who joined the program from Penn State last year.
“Playing under Coach Hand definitely made me a better player,” Smith said. “He’s definitely a great coach. I’ve come miles under him. He took me to a different level and helped me develop as a player.”