Don't expect 'earth-shaking personnel changes' for Auburn's offense — including QB
Auburn knows it has to change something about its rough offense. But it doesn't sound like that's going to involve who takes the snaps.
QB Payton Thorne (Austin Perryman/Auburn Tigers)
For anyone expecting Hugh Freeze to make massive changes on offense after the Auburn’s 30-point loss at LSU, you didn’t get that from the head coach Monday.
The main focus of those questions has been at the quarterback position, particularly the use of both starter Payton Thorne and backup Robby Ashford.
Like the case was after Thorne’s rough performance against Texas A&M on the road, Freeze didn’t sound like a head coach who is going to make a change at quarterback.
“No real earth-shaking personnel changes,” Freeze said, when asked specifically about the offense. “Just trying to get the best plan that our kids understand that they can execute with who we have.”
Through six games as the starting quarterback, Thorne has completed 60.7% of his passes for an average of 6.4 yards per attempt, four touchdowns and four interceptions.
In three games against SEC opponents, Thorne has completed just 51.9% of his passes for an average of 4.1 yards per attempt with zero touchdowns. He went 12-23 passing for 102 yards last Saturday against an LSU defense that had been among the worst in the country over the last few weeks.
Thorne’s marks in yards per attempt and quarterback rating in SEC play are both the lowest in the conference among qualified passers so far this season.
Against LSU, Ashford went 3-4 passing for 52 yards and a touchdown to Brandon Frazier. He also added four true carries for 26 rushing yards. (Thorne, who has made plays with his legs this season, finished with four true carries for 29 yards vs. LSU.)
Freeze has made it clear that Ashford’s snaps are coming in specific packages, and the usage of those packages have varied each week. To this date, it hasn’t looked like Ashford has run the whole scope of the offense in non-garbage time situations.
When asked if Ashford could get more opportunities outside of the red zone against Ole Miss this Saturday — something he did on a few drives against LSU — Freeze said “we consider everything and everybody.”
“That’s still being discussed,” Freeze later said, when asked about the quarterback rotation. “I would expect you would see both QBs.”
It sounds like Freeze and Auburn offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery are continuing to stick to their guns as they enter the second half of the season.
There could be tweaks to personnel at spots, such as wide receiver Caleb Burton III getting his first real playing time of the season against LSU last Saturday. (Freeze said Burton, who had two receptions, should be in line for more playing time after his great work in recent practices.)
But the two-quarterback system looks like it’s here to stay.
So what other changes could be coming to an offense that is one of the least successful in major college football?
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