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Auburn's Harsin opens spring after offseason uncertainty

By JOHN ZENOR

AP Sports Writer

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said he isn't bitter about a school investigation that placed his job in apparent jeopardy.

Harsin has now turned his attention to finding a starting quarterback and stopping a five-game skid. But the memories linger, of course.

"There was a lot of things that happened," Harsin said Monday after the Tigers' first spring practice. "I don't really see the value at this point of looking back in the rearview mirror. I'm a guy that wants to move forward, that wants to get better, that wants to keep moving. Now, that's how I operate.

"There's other people involved. There's other families involved. I'm not saying they have to operate like I do."

The probe started with President Jay Gogue telling trustees that his office was "trying to separate fact from fiction" surrounding the polarizing coach. The program had lost 18 players and five assistant coaches after Harsin's 6-7 debut season, including three coordinators.

One former player said Harsin treated them "like dogs," though others rose to Harsin's defense.

It ended with Gogue decrying the "wild speculation" and misinformation in the "feeding frenzy" surrounding Harsin, whose contract runs through the 2026 season. He didn't specify the nature of that speculation.

Now, Harsin is trying to move forward and overcome any lingering uncertainty among players, fans and recruits. He says that has to be a team effort, and not just among players, stressing that "this isn't Auburn versus Auburn."

"If we're all going in that same direction, people are going to want to be a part of that," he said. "If we're not going in the same direction, people aren't going to want to be a part of it."

Harsin also knows some opposing coaches will use that offseason turmoil against Auburn on the recruiting trail.

"And there's a lot of programs and people out there that have no problem doing that," he said. "I don't feel that way. I really don't. There's a lot of people that don't. We battled it and we're going to battle it every day."

Harsin hired Eric Kiesau as his third offensive coordinator in some 14 months. With the offseason issues apparently behind them, their most high-profile task of the spring is picking from a large field of quarterback candidates.

Three-year starter Bo Nix left for Oregon, and LSU transfer T.J. Finley took his place after Nix's season-ending injury. Auburn brought in former Texas A&M starter Zach Calzada and Oregon transfer Robby Ashford to join Finley, redshirt freshman Dematrius Davis and signee Holden Geriner in the competition.

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Updated March 14, 2022

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