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Auburn to Start 3rd String Center After Tate Johnson Injury

Auburn will be without starting center Tate Johnson for the next six to eight weeks, coach Bryan Harsin said Monday. 

Johnson suffered an elbow injury during the first half of the win over Missouri. He will undergo surgery this Thursday to fix the issue with hopes of returning this season. The injury holds a recovery time of six to eight weeks, but “Could be season-ending,” said Harsin. 

The junior did not see the field see the field in 2021 but started the first four games of the 2022 campaign after six-year starter Nick Brahms was forced to medically retire from football six-days before the opening game against Mercer this year. 

Through the first four games of this year Johnson has allowed eight quarterback pressures, while putting together a pass protection grade of 47.4, per Pro Football Focus. 

Quarterback Robby Ashford sounded off on Johnson’s injury with the following: “”Tate came in, stepped up in a role to be the center and just losing him, that’s big.” 

Third-string center Jalil Irvin, who took over for Johnson after he went down, is listed as the starting center for this Saturday’s game against LSU. Irvin did not have his best outing against Missouri, posting a 46.6 run blocking grade. 

Irvin was the backup center to Nick Brahms in 2021 but did not see much action. The 6’3″ lineman has seen limited action in his time with Auburn in the backup role. The most notable of these games is the Birmingham Bowl in 2021 where Irvin started in place of Brahms, who was coming off a medical procedure. 

“We’ll move some guys around and take a look at it,” Harsin said. “Avery Jernigan has also played center for us. So, we’ve got to figure that out, the best five, what that’s going to look like. And there might be some rotation in there. But that will be what we do come Tuesday, Wednesday. Just really try to sort that out and figure it out by Thursday so we can get really quality reps in that final practice on Friday before we go into the game,” which alludes to the fact nothing is set in stone despite Jalil Irvin listed as the starter. 

Sophomore Avery Jernigan is listed as second on the depth chart against LSU.

This Saturday could be Auburn’s biggest test yet for the offensive line, as LSU comes in with a thirty-ninth ranked rush defense and eight ranked pass defenses in the nation. 

“I think their front seven is really good… I don’t see a lot of holes in their defense. They’re just well-coached,” head coach Bryan Harsin said. 

The Auburn Tigers (3-1, 1-0 SEC) will try to secure the second win in a row at Jordon-Hare Stadium against LSU (3-1, 1-0 SEC) this Saturday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN), as Jalil Irvin will look to make his mark on the Auburn offensive line in his first start of the 2022 season.

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