The Auburn Corner: Thorne Announced as Starter, Now What?

AUBURN, AL - August 12, 2023 - Auburn Quarterback Payton Thorne (#1) during a fall camp scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, AL. Photo By Austin Perryman

Every Tuesday right here you can read The Auburn Corner, where we’ll get into a different topic on the Auburn Tigers, break down the previous game, preview the upcoming game, and everything in between. In this week’s edition, the big news on The Plains is Hugh Freeze finally doing the inevitable and announcing Payton Thorne as Auburn’s week one starter at QB:

While it may have been billed as a true quarterback competition with Robby Ashford and Holden Geriner both having made strides from last year, Payton Thorne was brought in from Michigan State to be the starting QB for this team. There will likely be a package for Ashford to get on the field as well, but Thorne has by far the highest ceiling as a passer in the room.

Now that the biggest question has been answered, we can turn the page and ask the obvious: how good can Thorne be in this offense?

The answer will heavily depend on the Tigers’ reconstructed offensive line. Through the dreadful recruiting of the position during the Harsin era, Auburn suffered some of the worst line play in the conference during the last two seasons, and Freeze went right to work to address it. Auburn will have new starters at both tackle spots along with improved depth on the interior.

Last week, we also talked about the fact that Auburn will be heavily relying on players out of the portal to catch passes from Thorne this season. Jackson State transfer Shane Hooks turned some heads this weekend at Auburn’s scrimmage with a ridiculous one handed catch in the end zone, which you can see here:

With Thorne now taking all the first team reps, Auburn can begin to turn its focus on the opener against UMASS. Rather than their counterparts in Tuscaloosa, who will likely use the opener to figure out who their main man is going to be, the Tigers can instead use their matchup on September 2nd to get Thorne acclimated to the new offense and ideally, ready for SEC play three weeks later at Texas A&M.

While Auburn does have to take a road trip to California in week two (a team they still should defeat), they have the benefit of essentially three tune-up matchups before conference play starts to tweak things on offense and get ready for their onslaught of an SEC schedule. The Tigers head back home to face Samford before Hugh Freeze’s return to SEC play.

Auburn simply must be ready for A&M in week four. The argument can be made that it is the most important game on the schedule with probable losses the following two weeks against Georgia and at LSU. If the Tigers can start out 4-0 like they should, they can weather the storm of what will likely be back to back losses in the next two.

While Thorne has shown the ability to play at a high level at Michigan State, he is entering a new level of football in the Southeastern Conference and will need every rep he can get before what will be a gauntlet of an SEC West schedule plus Georgia.

But with 11 days until the opener, Hugh Freeze has one less question to answer, and Auburn has its man at quarterback.