Transfer-heavy Auburn has coach Hugh Freeze ‘uncomfortable’

Field Level Media

August 03, 2023 at 8:44 pm.

Plenty is new within the Auburn football program entering the 2023 season, including coach Hugh Freeze and a group of transfers such as quarterback Payton Thorne.

Freeze explained why that’s left him feeling anxious and uncertain about the roster he is working with as Auburn opened preseason training camp Thursday.

“This is the most uncomfortable fall camp I’m going into and it’s because of this new world (of roster turnover),” Freeze told reporters. “We had players we added after spring ball, and one’s a quarterback and I haven’t coached him a single practice and everyone’s asking, ‘What do you think?’ I have no idea.”

The quarterback in question is Thorne, formerly of Michigan State. Thorne chose to enter the transfer portal after spring practice with the Spartans and committed to Auburn in early May. He is competing for Auburn’s starting job with returning starter Robby Ashford, redshirt freshman Holden Geriner and true freshman Hank Brown.

Thorne is one of eight players who transferred to Auburn after the spring practice session.

“It makes me feel a little bit anxious that I may be behind in our evaluation of who we are and what we can do,” Freeze said. “Maybe we are. That’s a feeling I have to battle.”

Freeze did not have a timetable for naming a Week 1 starting quarterback, but he wants to narrow the group to two top contenders before long.

Freeze, 53, comes to Auburn after four seasons as the head coach of Liberty, though he has prior SEC experience at Ole Miss. In 10 seasons as a head coach at Arkansas State (2011), Ole Miss (2012-16) and Liberty, Freeze is 83-43 with a 6-2 record in bowl games.

Thorne, 22, was the starting quarterback for two years at Michigan State. In 29 career games with the Spartans (2020-22), he threw for 6,494 yards, 49 touchdowns and 24 interceptions with a 60.9 percent completion rate.