With Zach Calzada back to 'full-go,' it feels like Auburn's 2022 QB battle is truly about to begin
The transfer quarterback from Texas A&M was limited in spring ball. But, with summer workouts starting next week, the Tigers' four-wide race can now kick into gear.
QB Zach Calzada (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
No one would have predicted that a single play during the Auburn-Texas A&M game last fall would have made a significant impact on the Tigers’ 2022 quarterback battle.
Especially not one in which the Aggies’ offense was on the field.
Backed up by a pair of penalties, Texas A&M faced a second-and-goal from the Auburn 23-yard line with a little under five minutes to go in the third quarter of a 3-3 game. Zach Calzada had led the Aggies this far — going 5-6 through the air for 75 yards — and took off on a scramble to keep his team firmly in scoring range.
Toward the end of his 10-yard run, Calzada lowered his left shoulder and attempted to truck hard-hitting Auburn safety Smoke Monday. Calzada suffered an injury on the hit, one that required some rather unpleasant assistance from the Texas A&M medical staff.
Texas A&M would later kick the short field to finish the drive and take the lead on Auburn. Calzada, clearly bothered by the injury to his non-throwing shoulder, still managed to convert a third-and-long on the following drive to set up another field goal for the Aggies. Texas A&M scored on a scoop-and-score on Auburn’s next possession to ultimately put the game out of reach, but Calzada managed to convert yet another third-and-long through the air to create yet another scoring drive.
Fast-forward a little more than four months later. Bo Nix had suffered a season-ending injury a week after the trip to College Station and later decided to transfer to Oregon. T.J. Finley would ultimately be unable to come off the bench — much like Calzada had done for Haynes King early in the 2021 season at Texas A&M — and lead the Tigers to another win in what would be a five-game losing streak to end the season.
With his chances at holding onto the Texas A&M QB1 job uncertain, Calzada entered the transfer portal and chose Auburn. There was only one problem for him in a now-crowded quarterback room: That injury he suffered against his new team back in November would keep him from being a full participant in spring practices.
The irony is not lost on his new head coach, Bryan Harsin.
“It’s funny, because in a way — the game he played against us is when he really got banged up, and now we have him on the roster, right?” Harsin said earlier this week at Bruce Pearl’s Fore The Children charity golf event. “So, you’re sitting there kind of looking at it like, damn. It’s just kind of one of those things that you hope he hadn’t gotten injured, and he could have gotten some more reps in the spring.”