Sunday, August 13, 2017

Auburn Helmet News

Over the last few years, Auburn has might small changes to the helmets in one way or another. This year is no different. This season will see at least one new helmet model as well as a brand new design feature.

auburn helmet football
Auburn will be using the three newest and potentially safest helmets on the market (image via Auburn Athletics)

Last year, I covered Auburn's use of a new helmet, the Riddell SpeedFlex. The SpeedFlex is designed to help reduce risk and impact of concussions. It was pretty much the safest helmet on the market, but now there are two new helmets produced by two different companies.

The first helmet is the Vicis Zero1. WR Will Hastings was testing out the new helmet for the 2017 A-Day game, but has since gone back to the SpeedFlex he had previously worn. The Zero1 is a completely re-engineering of the traditional helmet set up, moving to a layer system of compression zones. As you can tell looking at Hastings wearing the helmet, the Zero1 is a lot larger than the competition. It almost looks bobblehead-like in how it sits on the player's head. With Hastings moving away from the Vicis helmet, it looks as though FB Spencer Nigh will be one of the few players to wear the helmet this season.

markaviest bryant auburn schutt f7
Markaviest Bryant is one of the handful of Tigers
 wearing the Schutt F7 helmet this season.
(image via Julie Bennett,
The other, and more popular, helmet is the Schutt F7. The F7's biggest feature is a set of removable plates on the top ridge of the helmet. The removable plates help in replacing pieces of the foam inside the helmet much easier than previous models. As with the SpeedFlex, many teams are taking different approaches to the helmet stripes, as they run over the removable plates. Some teams are cutting the stripes, where as most are letting them run over the gaps. Another issue is the side of the shell, as it isn't smooth like other helmets. The ridge and air holes in the middle make for a difficult application of decals. The effect of the ridge under the decals is rather off-putting when viewed close up, so here's hoping it won't be nearly as jarring when viewed far off as with the normal television camera view.

It was previously mentioned that Auburn has tinkered with the helmets over the last few years. Back in 2015, the Tigers announced that the helmet stripes will be metallic finished, which saw a more drastic change for the orange striping than the blue. The navy facemask was also given a chrome-like, titanium finish. Auburn ultimately reverted back to the old plain navy masks the following season. This year, the metallic striping stays (to much disdain from many in the fanbase), and a new nose bumper will be used. Auburn will be jumping on the 3D Bumpers train, and adding a foam, 3D-printed "TIGERS" plate to the front rubber padding that connect the helmet shell to the facemask.

Many teams have sported this look over the last few years. Teams are now adding the 3D bumpers to the back pad. I've spoken with the manufacturer of Auburn's bumpers and was told that the Tigers will only be using the front bumpers this season. A normal, flat decal will stay on the back bumpers. The manufacturer said that this season will be a test run for Auburn, and there's a possibility the back bumpers could also be 3D printed in the future.

New 3D printed letters will be added to the front of the
Auburn Tigers' helmets this year (image via Auburn)
Like most changes that occur with Auburn, these are rather minor. The Auburn equipment team, and especially head equipment manager Dana Marquez, is always on the forefront of safety and will always search out ways to keep these players safe. The two new helmets, along with the new lids worn last season, are a testament to that. Marquez, who has generally been noted as against changing the Auburn uniform, has tinkered with new options the last few years. I know many will groan and gripe at any change whatsoever, but I personally appreciate Dana's willingness to test out new things. Don't take these changes as a sign for the worst. Don't expect a navy helmet, or the return of orange jerseys. These things are minor and just an attempt to mix things up, ever so slightly.

What do you think about these changes? Do you like the new helmet models? How about the use of 3D Bumpers this season? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!

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