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AUBURN — Auburn is down to its third-string center after its fourth game of the season, with former backup center Tate Johnson now out for 6-8 weeks due to scheduled elbow surgery, taking place later this week.
“We lost Nick, and then Tate came in and stepped up in a row to be the center and just, losing him, that's big,” quarterback Robby Ashford said.
Johnson was called upon to command the offensive line once Nick Brahms, the three-year starter, was forced to retire from football before the season began. Johnson sustained an injury during the first half of Auburn’s win over Missouri, and the offensive line struggled without him.
“He was injured in the last game, and he will have surgery on Thursday,” Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin said. “We'll work through replacing him and what we're going to do on the offensive line this week in practice.”
With Johnson down, Auburn will turn to senior Jalil Irvin, who replaced Johnson during Saturday’s win over Missouri. Backing up Irvin is sophomore Avery Jernigan, who has not seen any game action in his two years on the Plains.
This is another blow to an already embattled offensive line down two centers and struggling in the run game and pass protection. Auburn gave up nine tackles for loss and four sacks against Missouri on Saturday after Mizzou did not have a single tackle for loss against Abilene Christian.
Despite the struggles, and the loss of Johnson, veteran tight end John Samuel Shenker is not concerned about the group.
“When Tate got hurt, I really wasn't worried just knowing who we have on the sidelines, who we have in the game that we can rotate around,” Shenker said.
Harsin plans on using that depth to its potential during practice this week, in hopes of putting the best group on the field when the LSU Tigers step inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“Jernigan also has played center for us, so we have to figure that out with the best five and what that's going to look like,” Harsin said. “We'll just really try to sort that out and figure it out by Thursday so we can get really quality reps on our final practice on Friday before we go into the game.”
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