Aubserver Mailbag 71: Saturday Morning Quarterback
This week: T.J. Finley, Holden Geriner, post-Roger McCreary life at CB, an all left-handed lineup, WrestleMania, music and pigs in a blanket
QB T.J. Finley (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
Welcome to a special Saturday edition of the mailbag. With the Yohan Traore commitment coming Thursday evening, we wanted to make sure we didn’t bombard you with a bunch of emails in a short amount of time, so you’re getting the ‘Bag a day later than usual this week.
We’re just one week away from the annual A-Day Game, and even though Bruce Pearl’s team has grabbed a lot of attention in its reloading efforts from the SEC title campaign, some more buzz around football is starting to pick up — at least in this round of questions.
This week, you asked about T.J. Finley, Holden Geriner, the cornerback situation post-Roger McCreary and the transfer portal. In basketball, we’ve got two different fantasy lineups to build and a question about the championship-caliber offensive efficiency we discussed a week ago. Plus, there’s some WrestleMania weekend chatter to headline our usual crop of non-Auburn questions.
Thanks for making this one of the most fun things to write each and every week. Let’s go.
I see lots of excuses about TJ being set up for failure last year. But how is that different from other backup QBs that came in after injuries in recent years & are at least moderately successful? Calzada, Stetson, Mac Jones, Fromm, Slovis, Kelly Bryant, the list goes on. Their situations are vastly different, but all of these dudes had varying degrees of success and some balled out.
In Finley’s case, he already had starting experience in the SEC and when Bo went down, AU was 6-4 and had at least a competent offense. Finley didn’t win a game as a starter and our offense fell off a cliff.
Obviously I’ve only cherry picked backup QBs that had some success - but are we making too many excuses for TJ when it’s not at all unprecedented for *good* backup QBs to come in and find success quickly? After performing relatively poorly in similar situations at both LSU and AU, what point is he just not the guy?
I think T.J. Finley stepped into a really difficult situation last season, but it would have been tough for anybody. You mention all of those quarterbacks who had success when they came into the starting lineup, and I want to point out that their supporting casts — especially on the offensive line and at receiver — were largely better than the one Finley had last season. Keep in mind that a big part of the reason why Bo Nix was as successful as he was with this crew was his ability to scramble and buy time.
In his three games as a starter last season, Finley completed 55.8% of his passes for an average of 5.6 yards per attempt and a quarterback rating of 116.4. In his five games as a starter at LSU as a freshman, Finley completed 57.1% of his passes for an average of 6.7 yards per attempt and a quarterback rating of 118.4. He obviously had some bigger plays in Baton Rouge, but his accuracy and efficiency were about the same.
That might be who Finley is as a starting quarterback in the SEC. I think Auburn went out and got two different transfers at the position for a reason — it needs better quarterback play in order to be a more successful offense.
But I would also point out that Finley has only played parts of two seasons, and neither of them were ones where he was prepped to be the guy. There are a number of examples, including ones at Auburn, where quarterbacks have made big jumps in their junior or senior seasons. I don’t think it’s a lock to say that the book has completely been written on Finley.
If Finley proves to be Auburn’s best option at quarterback by the time the season starts, he’ll be the guy from Week 1 for the very first time. If it doesn’t work then, it’s safe to say it probably won’t ever work out for him at this level. He’s got to improve, and I understand why some fans think that just won’t happen after what they saw last season. But I don’t think he’s a finished product — and if Auburn’s staff names him the starter this fall over two guys they brought in to compete with him, I think that would be enough reason to be more optimistic about his chances.