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Auburn defender points to 'unfinished business' on return after disappointing 2021 season

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Colby Wooden has never had a losing season in his life, at least until last fall.

Auburn’s 6–7 campaign, in which the team lost five games in a row to end the season, marked the program’s first losing record since 2012.

“It was a difficult drug to swallow,” said Wooden.

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In the wake of that season, with Bryan Hershin taking over as Tigers head coach for the first time, Auburn saw quite a few turnovers in both the roster and coaching staff. Nineteen players were transferred from the program after the season and the staff was overhauled. These were all part of a tumultuous offseason that cast uncertainty over the program’s direction.

Wooden was one of three Auburn defenders considered declaring early for the NFL Draft rather than through the transfer portal. We considered each option, but ultimately chose to return for another season with the Plains.

“It’s an unfinished business,” Pappoe said. “I didn’t really want to go out like that, bro. Personally, I’m sick of losing and that’s the message we’ve all been preaching to the team. We want to make a difference this year. So I’m going into the season with a chip on my shoulder.”

For Pappoe, the decision was a simpler one. He’s been a starter at linebacker since the first game of his freshman season and entered the NFL Draft as an early-round pick last year. However, those hopes were dashed as he had to deal with an injury that sidelined him for all but five games and had post-season surgery to fix.

After putting together a second-team All-SEC campaign during his junior years, Hall seriously considered moving to the NFL. He led Auburn in his foul losses (12.5) and sacks (9) in tackles and compiled his season with the best passes the program has seen since Jeff Holland in 2017.When he lost to Alabama in overtime in last year’s Iron Bowl, he told his mother he was going to be drafted.

Hall reconsidered before announcing it publicly and ultimately chose to return to the senior year, partly because he wanted to complete his degree.

“That was the biggest thing for me. It was an education,” Hall said at SEC Media Days. “The next big thing was why would you drop out of college and miss out on your college experience, because you’ll never get it back. Toughness, just being able to pour blood, sweat and tears again, that was a big deal for me too.

“You know, I love Auburn and Auburn sure loved me….Auburn is such a special place that I wanted to give back. If not, it will definitely come back in 2022.”

That’s the sentiment Wood echoed after the first day of fall practice on Friday. The fatigue was worth it, he felt. It’s all part of the process and a goal after choosing to return for a senior season.

Wooden finished his junior season with 61 tackles, 8.5 losses, 5 sacks, 7 quarterback Harry’s and blocked field goals, but his personal accomplishments were against a 6-7 team. So after considering his future, he took a good look in the mirror and decided not only to improve his draft stock but also to help Auburn get back on his feet and avoid another disappointing season. , I decided to ask myself what I needed to improve.

“I had to start over,” said Wood. “…I feel like this team can go far and do a lot. And I’m graduating in December, so I’m kind of excited… I have no choice but to close the deal, that’s basically it. ”

It’s a steep mountain to climb for the program that has been counted by many proponents and outside observers. He was predicted to finish last in the SEC West for the second time. At quarterbacks, it’s understandable why the external expectations of the program lie where they are.

The players know they still have something to prove after last season’s disappointment, but they’re trying to drown out the noise.

“I’m excited to see what happens,” Pappoe said. “I actually feel like things are different this year.”

Tom Green is an Auburn Beat Reporter for Alabama Media Group. follow him on twitter @Tomas_Verde.