Auburn will be without its most experienced offensive lineman this season.
Nick Brahms, who has been the Tigers’ starting center for much of the last four seasons, has been ruled out for the 2022 season due to lingering knee issues, coach Bryan Harsin announced Monday.
Read more Auburn football: The official Auburn depth chart to open the 2022 season
The reintroduction of TJ Finley, Auburn’s new QB1
Seven potential candidates for Auburn’s next athletics director
“Nick Brahms is officially done with football now,” Harsin said. “…He tried after last season. He had the injury going into the bowl game and then came back and just not there physically to be able to go out there and play, really to play at the level that he wants to play at.”
Brahms’ decision to step away from the field comes five days before Auburn is set to open the season against Mercer on Saturday, and it leaves a significant hole to fill in the middle of the team’s offensive line. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound sixth-year senior has appeared in 40 career games at center for Auburn, making 33 starts at the position over the last four seasons.
After redshirting during his first season in 2017, Brahms — who signed with Auburn as a four-star prospect at guard — took over the starting center job a month into the 2018 campaign, supplanting Caleb Kim for five games in the middle of the season and drawing a start in the Outback Bowl to cap the year. Brahms and Kim split time at center in 2019, with Brahms starting the final five games of the season before taking over the job full-time heading into the 2020 campaign. The Navarre, Fla., native started every game in which he was healthy the last two seasons, and between the 2019 campaign and last year’s Iron Bowl, Brahms made 28 consecutive starts at center for Auburn.
That streak ended prior to the Birmingham Bowl against Houston, as Brahms underwent a minor knee procedure at the end of the regular season. Since the 2019 season, Brahms has given up just two sacks in 1,081 snaps at center, according to Pro Football Focus.
After weighing his future, Brahms opted to return to Auburn for a sixth season, announcing in early January that he planned to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA to players during the pandemic. Brahms’ decision to return was a boost to an Auburn offensive line, which also had starting guard Brandon Council, starting tackle Austin Troxell and veteran Alec Jackson return for a “super senior” year, while also returning a three-year starter at right guard in redshirt junior Keiondre Jones.
Brahms, along with Troxell and Council, was limited throughout the spring, but he was back in the fold for summer workouts and the start of fall camp. While he was back in his starting spot at center at the beginning of preseason practices, he missed time in the last week, as Auburn worked other options at center. Tate Johnson was listed atop the depth chart at center and will start Week 1.
“For him to come back and then not be able to play, I know it crushes him,” starting quarterback TJ Finley said. “I don’t like to bring it up to him, because I know how hard it hurts. But I was one of the first people he came to let know the news, and I appreciate that so much out of him — because, like I said, I was begging him to come back and protect me up front. But he made the best decision that he had to make for him and his family and his future. All I can do is respect him.”
As for Brahms, it remains to be seen what the future holds, although Harsin indicated that he will remain with the team during the season. Brahms earned his degree at the end of the 2020 season and has been working towards his master’s degree and becoming a flight instructor. ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay, in his latest positional rankings, had Brahms listed as the No. 6 center prospects in the 2023 draft.
“Nick has been at every practice,” Harsin said. “He has helped our players out. He has helped the O-line out. He will continue to keep doing that. So very proud of him, just for his efforts. One thing I told him: Football ends. It always does. It’s just usually not on our timeline that we want. His future is bright, and he’s going to help this football team, and we’re looking forward to that.”
Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Thomas_Verde.