Auburn football: 2023 Tigers’ spring practice primer

Auburn footballNov 26, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Robby Ashford (9) warms up prior to the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn footballNov 26, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Robby Ashford (9) warms up prior to the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports /

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve almost made it. In five days, the inaugural version of Hugh Freeze’s Auburn football team will begin spring practice. During what has been, to put it kindly, a very back-and-forth basketball season, and with baseball season just now starting, football has taken a back seat.

That all changes next Monday. We will finally get to hear some news on football. And while basketball season is far from over, and the baseball team is expecting to overachieve on their preseason predictions, football is king in this state.

Let’s talk about the storylines we’re gonna be facing this spring and summer.

The quarterback battle for Auburn football

This is probably the biggest storyline for Auburn football this season. Who will win the job of starting QB in year one under Hugh Freeze and Philip Montgomery? As the roster stands now, the odds favor incumbent Robby Ashford.

Robby flashed excellence at times last season but also showed inconsistency with his accuracy and decision-making. He’s also the QB on the roster who has the most upside. He likely runs in the 4.4s, if not faster, and has ample arm strength to hit the deep shot. It’s gonna be his throws to the field and the boundary that make or break him this fall.

If it’s not Robby, it’s likely Holden Geriner or a post-spring transfer. I won’t speculate as to who that transfer could be, but there are guys out there who won’t win the starting job and don’t want to kill their eligibility riding the pine at their current school.

My early prediction is that Robby takes enough of a step forward passing the ball to take a soft hold on the job until summer and fall camp starts, where the final battle will be decided leading into opening weekend.

Who catches those passes?

Auburn lost their three best pass catchers prior to Bryan Harsin’s arrival in 2021. Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz, and Eli Stove were all instrumental in the mild successes of both Jarrett Stidham and Bo Nix. In their place rose Kobe Hudson and Shedrick Jackson. Neither remains. In steps some of the rawest talent we’ve seen at Auburn in a while.

Camden Brown? 6’3”. Landen King? 6’5”. Brandon Frazier? 6’7”. Rivaldo Fairweather? 6’5”. Malcolm Johnson Jr.? 6’1”. Omari Kelly? 6’0”. Micah Riley-Ducker? 6’5”. Vertical threats are everywhere on this roster. And in Freeze’s offense, which has always taken the top off of defenses, that’s huge. The only problem? That group of players has caught 81 combined passes.

The most returning receptions on the roster belong to Ja’Varrius Johnson, who is talented and speedy, but not very sizable.

Freeze, Montgomery, WRs coach Marcus Davis, and TEs coach Ben Aigamaua will have to find a steady group of pass catchers to fit the demands of this almost exclusively 10 and 11-personnel offense.

Related Story. Philip Montgomery’s Offensive Scheme. light

Who’s blocking?

The offensive line has been a question mark since the beginning of 2018, and it hasn’t shown much improvement. While there was some improvement shown after Harsin’s ouster last fall, that won’t be enough to stem the tide of sacks and negative runs that this position group allowed.

Insert Jake Thornton. Thornton coached one of the best offensive lines in the SEC in Ole Miss. He and Freeze signed NINE offensive linemen between each signing day. The group is no longer being ignored for skill players. If they improve, this offense should hum early and often.

So about that secondary?

Crime Dawg is back, alongside Zac Etheridge. With Ron Roberts running a mostly true nickel defense, gone are the days of playing cover 1 and hoping the blitz gets home. Two high will be very common in order to cap the vertical nature of offenses days.

Ole Miss and Arkansas both run versions of the veer and shoot, Texas A&M will move to a power spread under Bobby Petrino, Tennessee probably takes more deep shots than anyone in college football, and Georgia is still expected to run an attacking pro-style spread under new/old/new again offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Keeping teams underneath and forcing them to grind out drives will be key.

Ron Robert’s Defensive Scheme. light. Related Story

The Carlson legacy is over

Daniel Carlson left as the SEC’s all-time leading scorer. Anders Carlson struggled to live up to that standard but was still a pretty good kicker (minus trying to recover from a torn ACL before our very eyes). In steps redshirt freshman Alex McPherson. If you’re new to Auburn football and recognize the name, his brother is Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson.

Alex played in three games to conclude the season as Anders was unable to hardly walk with his leg not cooperating. 9/9 on extra point attempts and 6/7 on field goal attempts is a pretty solid audition. But can he keep it up over a full season? We’ll find out.

Conclusion for Auburn football

There is much to be excited about this spring. While the Hugh Freeze hire did not excite all, it is certainly a more exciting hire than the previous one, and certainly a much easier football decision to defend than bringing in a coach who was being criticized by his own fans.

Let’s have some fun with it. There’s nothing else to do. War Eagle!

Next. Josh Pate: Robby Ashford has winning football in him. dark