Auburn football: Recap of the 2023 spring A-Day game

Auburn football running back Sean Jackson (44) runs the ball during the A-Day spring football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, April 8, 2023.
Auburn football running back Sean Jackson (44) runs the ball during the A-Day spring football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, April 8, 2023. /

The Hugh Freeze era has officially started. Auburn football successfully, and I use that term lightly, staged its annual A-Day spring game. The first time that fans were able to see the Freeze version of Auburn football was a mild success, but a success nonetheless.

While the weather really hampered Freeze and offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery’s plans for the quarterbacks, we still got to see a glimpse of what this team will have to offer. Let’s talk about it.

Related Story. Breaking down the Philip Montgomery offense. light

Auburn football: offense

The offense, as I wrote back in December after Montgomery was hired, will be a high-tempo spread attack that focuses on RPOs, a smashmouth run game, extreme WR spacing, and play action deep shots to attack defenses where they aren’t. On Saturday, we saw all five points of emphasis.

First, the tempo. We saw mostly medium tempo on Saturday. That was partly due to the guys having just 15 spring practices and still getting used to the new verbiage and play-calling style. After first downs, however, we saw the hyperdrive tempo that Montgomery has utilized his entire career. When this offense picks up chunk yards, expect tempo.

Second, the RPOs. Every running play I saw was either a read option or an RPO. While I only remember two specific instances of QBs pulling and throwing the tagged route, every play had one available. Those two instances were a perimeter screen and a quick hitch, both from TJ Finley. It’s clear that Montgomery and Freeze both want to put defenders in conflict.

Third, the run game. While Montgomery has traditionally favored more pulling guards and tackles, and we did see that, we also saw Freeze’s more traditional zone run game. The gap schemes I recall seeing were GT counter, CT counter (really interesting play), Y counter, and one back power. I don’t remember dart ever being used. The zone schemes were inside zone, split zone, and outside zone. It’s clear that this will be a multiple run game.

Fourth, the formations. Yep. That’s ALL Philip Montgomery right there. Outside receivers were regularly extending past the numbers, even if the ball was spotted on the far hash. Slot receivers were usually just a few steps inside the numbers. DBs were essentially taken out of the play and allowed for the QB to diagnose the box more consistently.

Finally, the deep shots. Ever since Montgomery was announced, all we could think about was RG3, Nick Florence, and Bryce Petty dropping bombs on Big 12 defenses and the final score resembling a low-scoring basketball game. We saw several shot plays dialed up that just couldn’t be thrown due to good coverage. The two that did get thrown were a perfectly thrown ball by Robby and a shot into triple coverage by TJ that resulted in a defensive pass interference. The offense will be aggressive. Teams can’t play single high coverage against Auburn anymore.

Related Story. Breaking down the Ron Roberts defense. light

Auburn football: defense

When I wrote my article on Ron Roberts’s defensive philosophy back in December, it was mostly through film that I discovered what he did. And we saw it all on display on Saturday. I don’t remember a single play that had less than 5 rushers. Usually there were 6. While the offensive line mostly did a good job of protecting the QBs, the pass rush still made some plays, including a sack of TJ Finley on the final drive. It’s clear that Roberts will not sit back and hope for a 4 man rush to be effective.


This team has hope. The transfer portal will open soon and I’m fairly certain that Freeze and Co. will be active. We can reasonably expect a portal QB. While I won’t float names that aren’t in the portal, I can think of five QBs off the top of my head who would be good fits (we’ll talk about that once they’re in the portal).

As always, War Eagle.

Freeze beginning to favor one QB. dark. Next