AUBURN, Alabama — Not many expected Brandon Council to be back on the field for Auburn in fall camp, let alone be completely cleared for action by his head coach.

But the Tigers will have that luxury this weekend, when they’ll start fall camp with Council, last year’s starter at right guard before a season-ending knee injury, unmitigated in practices with the offensive line.

The former transfer from Akron will not be limited at all to start, according to Bryan Harsin, though Auburn’s coaching staff will be monitoring how Council responds on the practice field — first in walkthrough-style drills in shorts and helmets, then with pads, then in full contact sessions.

“He’s not limited out there at practice,” Harsin said Thursday. “… He’s going to be able to go out there and cut loose. … It’s really kind of based on how he feels and how he looks, how he responds after each practice, what his recovery time is.

“… When all that is good, he’s going to be out there full speed just like everybody else.”

Council also underwent offseason shoulder surgery in addition to the procedure from last season to repair the torn ACL in his left knee.

He missed all of spring practices working in the new offense with offensive line coach Will Friend and coordinator Mike Bobo, though Harsin commended him back in March for his diligence studying the new playbook and absorbing information from the sidelines.

Still, he hasn’t seen the field since his knee injury against Ole Miss last October. The Tigers are excited to have him back this weekend, but Harsin and Friend know they’ll have to address his situation intelligently now in order to maximize his productivity later.

“I think we understand that he hasn’t had the amount of practice time that other guys have,” Harsin said. “… We’re going to have to do a good job of allowing him to build into a few things that he hasn’t done in a while.”

Council started four of his five games last season at right guard and one at right tackle. After he was injured, former four-star recruit Keiondre Jones took over at right guard for the remainder of the season.

It wasn’t just Council that snagged Auburn’s offensive line on the injury front last season. By the end of the year, only center Nick Brahms and left guard Tashawn Manning remained from the Week 1 starting offensive line. Here’s a refresher of all the different lineups the Tigers deployed in 2020 — some were due to injury, and some were simply because former coach Gus Malzahn wanted to iron out the best possible starting five, regardless of how long it took into the season.

GROUP 1 (starters from Games 1-5)

  • Left tackle: Jackson
  • Left guard: Manning
  • Center: Brahms
  • Right guard: Council
  • Right tackle: Hamm

GROUP 2 (second-most common lineup from Games 1-5)

  • Left tackle: Jackson
  • Left guard: Council
  • Center: Brahms
  • Right guard: Jones
  • Right tackle: Hamm

GROUP 3 (third-most common lineup from Games 1-5)

  • Left tackle: Jackson
  • Left guard: Council
  • Center: Brahms
  • Right guard: Jones
  • Right tackle: Troxell

GROUP 4 (fourth-most common lineup from Games 1-5)

  • Left tackle: Jackson
  • Left guard: Manning
  • Center: Brahms
  • Right guard: Council
  • Right tackle: Troxell

GROUP 5 (fifth-most common lineup from Games 1-5)

  • Left tackle: Troxell
  • Left guard: Council
  • Center: Brahms
  • Right guard: Jones
  • Right tackle: Hamm

GROUP 6 (lineup during brief Hamm injury against Arkansas)

  • Left tackle: Jackson
  • Left guard: Manning
  • Center: Brahms
  • Right guard: Jones
  • Right tackle: Council

GROUP 7 (starters after Council and Troxell injuries)

  • Left tackle: Jackson
  • Left guard: Manning
  • Center: Brahms
  • Right guard: Jones
  • Right tackle: Hamm

GROUP 8 (most common lineup from Games 8-11)

  • Left tackle: Troxell
  • Left guard: Manning
  • Center: Brahms
  • Right guard: Jones
  • Right tackle: Coffey

GROUP 9 (second-most common lineup from Games 8-11)

  • Left tackle: Troxell
  • Left guard: Manning
  • Center: Brahms
  • Right guard: Jones
  • Right tackle: Hamm

GROUP 10 (third-most common lineup from Games 8-11)

  • Left tackle: Jackson
  • Left guard: Manning
  • Center: Brahms
  • Right guard: Jones
  • Right tackle: Troxell

It doesn’t sound as if Harsin wants to still be rotating in two or three players when the season kicks off, like Auburn did for the first half of the year in 2020, even before any major injuries hit. Of course, that shuffling came in handy later, as players were given game experience before they were later thrust into the lineup.

“We’re going to move guys around (in fall camp),” Harsin said. “That’s a big part of what we feel like on the O-line to develop them — get guys in those positions and not so much solidified that early. Let them compete, let them move around a little bit and decide who those five guys are going to be — because you want to get your best five on the field eventually.”

If Auburn truly is going to play positionless football for a while this preseason, Council’s return is paramount to allow Friend to test different lineups.

A veteran who can play either guard or tackle spot, and even served as Auburn’s backup center last preseason, Council can be plugged in seemingly anywhere. It’s assumed he’ll be inserted back in at right guard, but Friend has been assessing the Tigers’ offensive linemen and their individual skill sets all offseason — possibly with some changes in mind.

If Friend wants to try, say, Brodarious Hamm at guard instead of tackle, or Austin Troxell at right tackle instead of left, Council’s versatility and willingness to go where he’s needed can possibly expedite the solving of Auburn’s offensive-line puzzle before the season begins.

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