Finally, Auburn coach Bryan Harsin shows he’s a fighter

Derick Hall is the kind of person Auburn football needs in the building and on the field to reverse the Tigers’ losing ways.

It’s not going to be easy this season with everything that has happened down on the Plains, but after listening to Hall speak about his school at SEC Media Days at least there seems to be a glimmer of hope. I’m not convinced Auburn is going to have a winning season in 2022, but the players are united like maybe they’ve never been since Gus Malzahn was fired after the 2020 season.

That’s a start, but it took some painful doses of radiation to beat back Auburn’s unique variety of internal cancer.

I’m talking about the investigation of head coach Bryan Harsin, of course, which will linger over Auburn football this season no matter how much the university wants the legacy of this latest controversy to go away. Crazy as it sounds to outsiders, there was a coup attempt to overthrow Harsin in February — WHILE HE WAS ON VACATION IN MEXICO — but the first-year coach somehow survived it.

Hall and his teammates were a big reason why, and that’s a credit to their character and, maybe more importantly, a validation of Harsin’s.

Did Hall ever think about leaving?

“Heck no,” said the senior defensive end. “I love Auburn. Auburn loves me back…The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”

What did Hall think when he heard the news that Harsin’s job status was uncertain?

“Holy crap!” Hall said.

I co-sign that reaction.

RELATED: Bryan Harsin’s message to recruits is ‘just watch’

RELATED: Healthy football team expected for Auburn’s fall camp

RELATED: The timeline on Auburn’s quarterback battle

GOODMAN: Bo Nix was the original NIL star, and look at him now

GOODMAN: Nick Saban fears the worse for ‘competitive balance’

APPLY  Jazz analyst, ex-star Thurl Bailey: Donovan Mitchell ‘a superstar already’

Auburn lost its last five football games of the 2021 season, and then it got worse after that. There was a mass exodus of players in the weeks following Auburn’s loss to Houston in the Birmingham Bowl. During that time, over a dozen players left the program and so did a handful of coaches. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was fired, and then the guy hired to replace him never showed up.

Auburn defensive coordinator Derek Mason, the former head coach at Vanderbilt, left to coach defense at Oklahoma State. From Auburn to Oklahoma State? That’s not a lateral move. That’s a self-imposed demotion.

Or, put another way, maybe the actions of a man concerned about self-preservation.

People inside the Auburn family wanted Harsin, after just one season on the job, fired for cause. There was an internal investigation into Harsin’s actions as a coach. His integrity was questioned. His family was embarrassed. Ugly stuff.

In the hopes of saving their coach’s job, Hall and other football players spoke up for Harsin to Auburn’s president and board of trustee members. Fans rallied around the embattled coach, too. For people unfamiliar with SEC football, this all must sound like the plot to a bad reality television show. Here inside the footprint, we just call it Auburn being Auburn.

Barn gonna barn, as we say.

That doesn’t excuse it, though. At any properly functioning business, what happened at Auburn over the offseason would prompt an investigation of the investigation. At Auburn, the insurrectionists are also the treasurers.

And so on the eve of SEC Media Days, we have the world’s most famous college football booster, Auburn alum Charles Barkley, pleading in public for the Auburn fan club’s overzealous actors to leave the football coach alone and please let him just try and do his job. We’ll see. For now, anyway, the team appears to be galvanized by its own furnace of freak-dom.

APPLY  Despite his club wanting to sell, it wouldn't be a surprise if Frenkie de Jong remains at Barcelona

The ordeal brought the team together, Hall said. Harsin echoed the same thing. I liked what I saw and heard inside Atlanta’s College Football Hall of Fame on Thursday. Let’s just hope the resiliency remains. From the beginning, Harsin began his news conference with reporters letting everyone know he was going to address the “gorilla” in the room.

But maybe he meant guerrilla.

“I know some of you out there looking at me didn’t expect me to be here at this time,” Harsin said. “I’m going to dive into that here in just a second, address the gorilla in the room.”

He meant me. I counted out Harsin back in February, but I’m rooting for the guy to succeed. I’m still skeptical about his future, though. No, I don’t think he’s going to survive this season, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised again. Harsin needs a victory against Penn State in Auburn’s third game of the season. A loss will restart everything, and then after that the Tigers begin their gauntlet through the SEC.

“What came out of that inquiry were a lot of positives,” Harsin said. “There was a silver lining in all of this. What I saw from our players and our coaches was leadership opportunities for them to step up, which is exactly what they did. You got a chance to see guys provide leadership. You got a chance to see coaches provide leadership.

“What it did is it united our football team, our players, our staff, our football team. I’m really proud of our guys. I’m proud of what something like that — that could be very challenging and difficult for a lot of people — how our guys stepped up and handled it.”

APPLY  Orioles select Jackson Holliday, son of former All-Star, with first overall pick in 2022 MLB draft: ‘It’s like a video game’

The version of Harsin that showed up in Atlanta for SEC Media Days was certainly an unexpected voice compared to the canned, coach-speaking Harsin robot we heard this time last year. Harsin came out swinging at his own fanbase. It was great.

It’s going to take a strong voice and a strong coach to survive at Auburn. To win, it’s going to take even more than that, though. It’s going to take sustained unity, and I still don’t think Harsin is the person for that job.

But he’s fighting for it at least. He’s throwing punches. I’ve been wanting to know who the heck Harsin was since he was hired. On a stormy day in Atlanta, he finally started to show himself. It was a good look in the most Auburn of ways.

Harsin spiked the football on Auburn’s coup attempt. It’s not going away, but at least Harsin seems willing to run into a fight and not away from it. If that’s the case, then players like Hall will follow.

“Going back to what happened back in February, what I’m going to do now is address it,” Harsin said in his opening remarks. “Moving forward, that will be the last time I talk about this subject.

“There was an inquiry. It was uncomfortable. It was unfounded. It presented an opportunity for people to personally attack me, my family, and also our program. And it didn’t work.”

Hello, Coach Hars, and welcome to Auburn.

Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group, and author of “We Want Bama: A season of hope and the making of Nick Saban’s ‘ultimate team’”. You can find him on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.

#Finally #Auburn #coach #Bryan #Harsin #shows #hes #fighter

Leave a Comment