A statistical anomaly has taken hold of the Auburn football program leaderboard for rushing through the first three games of the 2023 season: the Tigers’ more pass-heavy option under center, Payton Thorne, holds the lead for rushing yards and yards per carry for a player with double-digit carries. Saturday Down South’s Glenn Sattell believes that will course-correct as AU enters SEC play.
“The big surprise there is that quarterback Payton Thorne leads the team in rushing,” Sattell wrote. “Thought to be the passing quarterback in Auburn’s 2-QB system with dual threat Robby Ashford suited more for the run-option scheme, Thorne is averaging 6.36 yards per carry and has already scored 2 rushing TDs.
“Don’t expect that trend to continue but do expect Jarquez Hunter to get more touches and eventually lead the way. Damari Alston has also proven he can get the job done, averaging right at 5 yards per carry on a team-high 24 attempts this season.”
Auburn football must improve across the board offensively
One of the reasons why Thorne is leading in rushing is the lack of separation receivers have gotten against opposing secondaries, particularly against Cal, which is the best representation through the season’s first three weeks for what the Tigers can expect throughout the 2023 season.
This is not to absolve AU’s quarterbacks and offensive line either. While the OL is far less of a problem than in years past thus far, there’s been a lack of dominance against opposing defensive fronts against teams you would’ve liked to see that against. Decision-making could be swifter from Thorne and Robby Ashford.
The Tigers’ deep RB room was always going to keep every individual in it from having eye-popping rush totals, but Thorne leading the pack in rushing thus far is a byproduct of the team getting more out of broken plays than they do ones that go as planned.
That’s not a game plan that’ll bear fruit over the long haul.