A new era of Auburn football has begun under head coach Hugh Freeze and his new staff, and changes have already become apparent on the Plains throughout the last few months. However, this new era will be even more obvious come September when the Tigers hit the field and fans see all the new faces from the transfer portal and the incoming freshman class.
Of course the headliner from the transfer portal during this offseason is Payton Thorne, the former Michigan State quarterback. Freeze knew upon arrival that another quarterback was necessary to compete with Robby Ashford and Holden Geriner, and Thorne joined the team this summer after being taken from the spring transfer window.
Freeze got what he wanted in Thorne—an experienced QB with talent who has proven wins on the field. But how will Thorne stack up against SEC defenses and the other returning SEC quarterbacks? According to Mike Bratton of That SEC Podcast, Thorne is the #12 QB in the conference entering the 2023 season:
"It’s not because I think he’s a bad player but it’s just so hard for me to peg what Auburn’s going to be with a new coaching staff, with essentially a new starting entire offense with all the transfers, so I think he could be a really good player… I’m not saying you can’t win with Payton Thorne, I think you can."
Bratton notes that Michigan State won 11 games two years ago with Thorne as QB1, but playing in the SEC is a whole different ballgame (pun intended). Against Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State, the three most comparable teams to those in the SEC, says Bratton, Thorne threw six touchdowns with six interceptions.
Below is the list of full rankings:
- KJ Jefferson – Arkansas
- Jayden Daniels – LSU
- Jaxson Dart – Ole Miss
- Will Rogers – Mississippi State
- Connor Weigman – Texas A&M
- Joe Milton – Tennessee
- Devin Leary – Kentucky
- Carson Beck – Georgia
- Spencer Rattler – South Carolina
- Jalen Milroe – Alabama
- Brady Cook – Missouri
- Payton Thorne – Auburn
- AJ Swann – Vanderbilt
- Graham Mertz – Florida
Best case scenario would be that Thorne flourishes under Freeze and the Auburn football staff, and that he rises to the occasion in college football’s toughest conference.