Between a training change, bowl prep and the vacations, the easiest way to explain the previous few weeks for Auburn is a “whirlwind.”
“We went into two weeks to the place we had numerous issues occurring, numerous modifications,” quarterback Bo Nix.
And — as a captain — each he and defensive finish Massive Kat Bryant have felt the have to be steadying presences for his or her teammates whereas every thing else round them has spun and whirled.
Because the second the workforce had its spring observe cancelled because of COVID-19, this season has been totally different. The Tigers suffered an outbreak throughout fall camp and one mid-season, forcing a recreation to be postponed.
“It’s been traumatic,” Bryant stated. “We needed to cease and go, numerous feelings up and down.”
No participant had ever skilled something prefer it, however Bryant stated it was particularly difficult for the freshmen. They didn’t even have one “regular” faculty recreation below their belts earlier than they performed 10 SEC video games in a pandemic.
Then, moments after their coach Gus Malzahn completed dancing with them within the locker room after beating Mississippi State, issues began to alter much more. Malzahn strayed from the traditional schedule and launched his workforce from observe to present them a break after what working again Tank Bigsby referred to as the toughest season of his life. Hours later, to finish the season on an much more difficult notice, Malzahn was fired.
Since Malzahn had been there for eight seasons, not one of the gamers had ever been by a head teaching change whereas at Auburn.
“So we (have been) simply making an attempt to determine,” Bryant stated.
Then, three days earlier than Christmas, a new coach was hired. Bryan Harsin, previously Boise State’s head coach, had his introductory press convention on Christmas Eve after which met with the gamers Saturday. With the bowl developing, Harsin has been staying again and observing to permit the workforce to proceed making ready because it was earlier than.
Via all of the modifications, the primary focus for the workforce leaders was to maintain the workforce optimistic, each Nix and Bryant stated. They needed their teammates to remain assured and motivated. Nix stated he tried to assist them belief that no matter occurred was going to be the very best for them.
They’ve had their challenges holding spirits up. The Tigers have had players opt out, catch COVID-19 and suffer injuries. Bryant stated it’s been actual exhausting holding the workforce “in tune and motivated” as a result of they’ve by no means been by something fairly like this 2020 season.
“In order a frontrunner on this workforce, I simply proceed to encourage them and present them there’s an even bigger image,” Bryant stated.
The coaches helped, as effectively. They, too, are all going through uncertainty — will Harsin retain any of them or herald all new assistant coaches? — however they’re holding themselves and their gamers targeted on the bowl recreation. Nix stated they’ve emphasised how large of a deal the Citrus Bowl is, each as an finish to this season and a step in the precise course for subsequent season.
Practices have been good to date. They’re taking somewhat little bit of a unique strategy, they usually’ve been extra relaxed. The break Malzahn gave them earlier than he was fired made a distinction in serving to them cope with stress, and Nix doesn’t really feel it put them again in any respect. He stated they’ve appeared “very crisp” as they run drills.
This bowl expertise will not be like another, however they’ve been by the routine of a recreation week 10 occasions this season. The way in which the Tigers are approaching it, that is simply recreation week 11.
“Regardless what occurs subsequent it’s essential as a result of that is the following factor that we positively have and that is the following factor that we are able to sit up for,” Nix stated. “So Friday might be essential and everyone sort of is aware of the significance of it.”