Why senior DB Keionte Scott returned to Auburn after flirting with the transfer portal

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The news came late in the evening on Jan. 5 — Auburn defensive back Keionte Scott, a leader both on the field and off the field for the Tigers, was expected to enter the transfer portal.

The reports came less than a month after Scott announced he’d be returning to Auburn for his senior season.

At the time, the prospective loss of Scott would’ve been the biggest hit Auburn took from the transfer portal.

However, just three days after the reports of him entering the portal surfaced, Scott took to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, to reaffirm his commitment to the Tigers.

“Thankful for the patience and the honest opinions but the REAL know where home is for me #WDE,” Scott posted Jan. 8.

On Thursday afternoon, Scott met with the media for the first time since his decision-filled offseason.

“I love this place at the end of the day,” Scott said when asked about him briefly flirting with transferring. “(I) Just had to really sit down and focus on everything, look everything through and Auburn is the place I wanted to be.”

Whether of significance or a coincidence, Scott’s decision not to transfer came just hours after it was reported that former Auburn defensive coordinator Ron Roberts would be leaving The Plains for a similar role at Florida.

At the same time Scott was entertaining the ides of playing elsewhere, his position coach, Auburn secondary coach Wesley McGriff was doing the same.

McGriff ended up taking a few more steps out the door as he went was far as being introduced as a hire at Texas A&M, but eventually backpedaled his way back to Auburn — a decision (or prospective decision, at the time) that undoubtedly impacted Scott’s return.

“We talked a lot throughout the process and stuff like that, and he was able to be able to still mentor me through the process of everything,” Scott said of he and McGriff’s relationship in the offseason. “So ultimately having him come back and stuff like that, that was a plus on top of everything.”

With Scott back in the fold, the Tigers return a seasoned veteran in the backfield, which is an advantage that can’t be overlooked considering Auburn will be without its starting safety in Jaylin Simpson and its pair of starting cornerbacks in DJ James and Nehemiah Pritchett — three guys who have turned their attention to April’s NFL Draft.

Tasked with having to help replace the production and experience of Simpson, James and Pritchett, Scott is looking to bring versatility to Auburn’s room of defensive backs.

After playing nickelback last season, Scott said in December that he was likely going to transition to cornerback for the 2024 season.

So far this spring, Scott says he’s been working both at corner and at nickel.

Meanwhile, Scott’s been impressed with his fellow defensive backs — a group that’s been under the microscope considering how different the secondary is slated to look in 2024.

“We feel like everybody’s going to be able to help, whether it be now or later,” Scott said. “Definitely a talented group that Coach Crime has been doing a good job of developing. I’m definitely excited for those guys, for sure. The whole room is going to be exciting.

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