Bama Hammer’s Ronald Evans had a dispiriting message on Auburn football quarterback commit Payton Thorne — rebutting my previous comment that the Michigan State transfer is the best QB in the state with doubts about the talent surrounding Thorne on the Plains.
“Jumping to a too-soon conclusion, Auburn fans are exuberant about Thorne — one example comes from Fly War Eagle,” Evans wrote. “And in fairness to Andrew Hughes, maybe Payton Thorne will be a better passer in 2023 than whoever is QB1 for Alabama Football. But Thorne will have to do it with less talented teammates than the Bama starter will line up beside. Without sufficient help, even good quarterbacks become mediocre performers.”
The original comment came with the Crimson Tide’s QB room — which collectively disappointed during the program’s A-Day spring game on April 22 but got particularly disappointing performances from starting options Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson — in mind. While Alabama added Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner, the most accomplished signal-caller in the room remains Thorne. In 2021, Thorne had Michigan State knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff in the final month of the regular season. Buchner has just four games with double-digit pass attempts, and two of those were losses.
Auburn football is being undersold by Alabama analyst
Evans believes that getting too far ahead of ourselves and crowning Thorne the quarterback king in the state of Alabama is something that could turn into a freezing cold take later on. With so many new components to the roster and coaching staff, it’s true that Auburn football could see a difficult transition to Philip Montgomery’s offense in 2023. While the defense is Nick Saban’s forte, the Crimson Tide’s coach’s ongoing presence always makes Alabama a safer bet to have one of the conference’s most efficient scoring units, even if a 30-year-old offensive coordinator is taking over the show in Tuscaloosa.
Still, it’s also possible that Evans is being dismissive of the Tigers’ improved talent level under new head coach Hugh Freeze. A nearly completely overhauled offensive line, a reinforced receiving corps, and a running back room with a continuously developing big-play threat and an added difference-maker from the portal make Thorne’s arsenal around him better than Evans advertised as well.
The 2023 season will put a large burden on both starting quarterbacks from the Iron Bowl rivals; whoever that may be coming from the Alabama side of the rivalry. If my prediction bears fruit, AU will be more competitive with the Crimson Tide than most would project them to be at this point.