Observations: What we saw and heard on Day 1 of Auburn football fall camp
Payton Thorne's practice debut and the three-wide quarterback battle took center stage as the Tigers returned to the field Thursday.
QB Holden Geriner (Austin Perryman/Auburn Athletics)
Let’s get this out of the way first: There are no updates on Jarquez Hunter.
Auburn opened its first fall camp under Hugh Freeze and his new staff on Thursday morning, trying to beat the heat in what has been an absolutely brutal summer on the Plains.
Freeze spoke with media members for almost a half-hour before the start of practice. That was followed by a 30-minute viewing window at the beginning of practice, which included some team drills and special teams work — along with, of course, the traditional stretching period.
Thursday was the practice debut for more than 20 newcomers who weren’t here in spring practices, including Michigan State transfer quarterback Payton Thorne.
“This is the most uncomfortable fall camp I'm going into, and it's because of the new world,” Freeze said. “We have players that we added after spring ball. One's a quarterback. I haven't coached him a single practice. And everybody's asking, ‘What do you think?’ I have no idea. And so it makes me feel a little anxious that I feel like I may be behind in our evaluation of who we are and what we can do. Maybe we are.
“That's a feeling I have to battle, and I'm ready to get it on the field and try to see what's accurate. Are we really behind in our evaluation because we have so many new faces and they're learning a new system. Or is it, ‘OK, we're on track.’”
Here’s what we saw and heard from the first fall practice viewing window and the interview session with Freeze on Thursday.
QB Robby Ashford (Austin Perryman/Auburn Athletics)
A first look at the new, three-wide quarterback battle
Freeze, offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery and special assistant Kent Austin have mapped out a plan for Auburn’s quarterback battle between Thorne, returning starter Robby Ashford and redshirt freshman Holden Geriner.
(The staff is high on the potential of true freshman Hank Brown, but Freeze has already said he won’t be a big factor in the fall camp race.)
Auburn will rotate the three quarterbacks “evenly amongst the 1s and 2s and the 3s” across the first five practices of fall camp. Then the Tigers will want to “recalibrate” and focus the reps on the top guys.
“(We will) create pressure and adverse situations, and see how they respond,” Freeze said of the quarterbacks. “Are they evaluating the coverages correctly? Is the ball going to the right spot? Is the decision to stay with the run or get into the RPO pass off of that? All of those things will be evaluated. And who does the team really rally around the most?”
During the practice viewing window, Auburn rolled through a rotation of four different offensive units in a 11-man drill against air. Thorne was the first one at quarterback, followed by Geriner, Ashford and Brown. Here’s a full look at the units, which included a fair amount of rotation at wide receiver and along the offensive line:
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