There may not be any position group on the football field where continuity means more than on the offensive line. The five individual linemen must operate as one unit to be successful. That is obviously a tall task that requires a lot of work and coordination.
New Auburn offensive line coach Jack Bicknell will have to earn his paycheck this season for a couple of reasons. First, there are talented players in the offensive line position group, but the Tigers must replace five seniors from last year’s squad. Also, there were no spring practices in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Auburn has missed multiple practices already in fall camp due to COVID-19 cases. Coach Bicknell’s group has a long way to go and a short time to get there.
Today, we look at the most productive returning player, a talented newcomer and a wildcard from the offensive line position group. The ability of this group to gel as a cohesive unit will factor heavily into Auburn’s offensive success this season.
Most productive returning player – Nick Brahms, 52, Jr.
Key 2019 stats – 5 starts at center
Nick Brahms has far and away the most playing experience at Auburn of any offensive lineman. He redshirted his freshman year, but started in five games in each of the 2018 and 2019 seasons. As a redshirt freshman, Brahms was unable to hold on to the starting job he earned in 2018. However, last season he moved into the starting line up in the Ole Miss game and held that role for the remainder of the year.
Although he is not one of the biggest offensive linemen, he may be one of the smartest as he has been named to the SEC All-Academic team in each of his three years at Auburn. At his size, Brahms must use his intelligence to play decisively and with great leverage and quickness. Auburn is counting on Brahms as a fourth-year player and the lone returning starter to anchor the offensive line and lead that position group.
Talented Newcomer – Brandon Council, 71, Jr.
Key 2019 stats – Played in 12 games for Akron at four different positions
Brandon Council checks two big boxes for Auburn- experience and versatility. The graduate transfer from Akron played in 24 games for Akron over the last three seasons. In those campaigns, he started for the Zips at four of the five offensive line positions at one point or another.
For a position group that will be searching for a way to get the five best players on the field at once, it is likely that Council’s ability to play multiple spots will give him a leg up in the competition. Similarly, he has started many more college games than anyone else in the Auburn offensive line group. Clearly, playing for Akron does not provide the same level of weekly competition as the SEC, but the experience of being counted on week in and week out as a key player can only help Council.
It will probably be a challenge for Council to pick up this new offense without the benefit of spring training. But, if Brandon can adapt to his new surrounding quickly and effectively, there is a great chance he could be one of the starting offensive linemen in Week 1.
Wildcard – Brodarious Hamm, 59, Jr.
Key 2019 stats – Played in 11 games
If you could only pick one player to pull for in 2020, Brodarious Hamm should be the one. This mountain of a man has a ton of potential, but his ability to persevere and endure is what makes him special. It is definitely hard to wait your turn to get playing time, but that is nothing compared to what Hamm has overcome in his life.
As a senior in high school, Hamm was diagnosed with cancer (as was fellow offensive lineman Tashawn Manning). He took a year away from football to undergo treatments in 2016 before being cleared to play in 2017. Hamm redshirted in 2017 and has been a reserve player for the last two campaigns. Early in 2020, Brodarious and his wife Kayla were struck with true tragedy as their first child, a son named Karter, shockingly passed away.
A short time later, as COVID-19 arrived in the United States, Hamm was forced to consider if he felt comfortable playing football with the knowledge that people with underlying or previous health conditions are likely at higher risk of adverse effects from the virus.
Through all of this, Brodarious is now likely to start at either guard or tackle for Auburn in 2020. Hamm is one of the most physically imposing Tigers and is already considered to be very strong as a run blocker. If he can hold up well in pass protection, then Hamm could be a critical piece to a new-look offensive line this season.
For other Auburn positional breakdowns:
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: email@example.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw