Hugh Freeze went on ESPN College GameDay ahead of Auburn’s Week 4 matchup against Texas A&M on September 23 and absolved his quarterbacks — claiming that the signal-callers aren’t always the problem. Instead, Freeze insinuated that route-running isn’t always crisp and there are oftentimes miscues that start from the coaching staff down; conceding that the offense isn’t clicking right now.
“It’s not always the quarterback that’s the issue, our routes sometimes are not run at the right depth and they’re not run against the right stems, the right coverages, and we’re still working to get that more consistent,” Freeze said.
Payton Thorne has four touchdowns and three interceptions, two of them coming Week 3 against Samford, through his first three games of the 2023 season. Freeze did acknowledge that the Michigan State transfer, and several of his receiving weapons, didn’t arrive to practice until the summer, complicating the chemistry-building process that has taken place over a short period of time.
Hugh Freeze on Payton Thorne: QB ‘has to’ take care of the ball
Freeze didn’t totally let Thorne off the hook, challenging his quarterback to take care of the ball after not doing so against Samford and Cal while striking a measured tone addressing the brutal three-game slate the Tigers face in Week 4, Week 5, and Week 7 after the bye week.
“Payton, first, has to take care of the ball — he hasn’t done the last two games,” Freeze prefaced before saying, “But he’s done some really nice things also. Obviously, when you’re playing the level of the next three games we had, you can’t turn it over.”
Any chance Auburn has of making noise in the SEC starts and ends with Thorne making these adjustments, though if he doesn’t prove capable in a hurry, Robby Ashford looms in the background as a threat to steal snaps.