Analyst sends ominous message on Auburn's Freeze Four: 'Gamble' Hugh Freeze has to get right

Alabama v Auburn
Alabama v Auburn / Michael Chang/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit's Matt Cohen sees Hugh Freeze's gamble of hoping the Freeze Four -- the spectacular incoming 2024 receiver class featuring Cam Coleman, Perry Thompson, Bryce Cain, and Malcolm Simmons -- will help Payton Thorne improve as Auburn's QB1 as something the head coach "has to" get right.

"(Freeze's) continuing to back Payton Thorne," Cohen prefaced before saying, "He said during spring practices that the starting quarterback position is still Thorne’s to lose even after benching him in the Music City Bowl.

"Throughout the 2023 season, Freeze hinted at this. He suggested that if he could get better talent around Thorne then Thorne would play better. It’s a gamble on the high school players he plans to rebuild Auburn with. It’s a gamble on them to make an impact early. It’s a gamble Freeze has to get right."

Hugh Freeze cannot be afraid to give Freeze Four a better arm than Payton Thorne's via transfer portal

Quite frankly, in the modern era of college football, wasting a year of a star recruit is coaching malpractice. Freeze runs the risk of committing that if he's too stubborn to replace Thorne under center after an up-and-down debut season on the Plains in 2023 that was mostly downs for the Michigan State transfer.

With the way the transfer portal works now, a situation better-suited for winning and NIL money can convince a blue-chip that there's greener pastures elsewhere. A Thorne-led offense wasn't exactly the greenest of pastures for anyone not named Rivaldo Fairweather or Jay Fair in 2023.

Some analysts covering the team see the light, though. Auburn Wire's Taylor Jones believes the Tigers' QB1 may not be on the roster yet and could join the roster following the conclusion of the A-Day spring game.

"It seems as if the 'is this year’s quarterback currently on the roster' trend will continue into 2024," Jones wrote. "Last season, neither Robby Ashford nor TJ Finley impressed Hugh Freeze during spring practice, so he reeled in Michigan State transfer Payton Thorne following the spring session to compete for the job that he ultimately won.

"There are plenty of questions surrounding the quarterback position this spring, and many of them may not be answered by the time A-Day concludes."

But the difference is that Freeze rarely sang Robby Ashford's or TJ Finley's praises. At every turn, Freeze has tried to instill confidence in Thorne with public adulation, even when it's seemed as though the younger and less experienced options in the room (Hank Brown, Walker White) have outperformed Thorne during spring practice; at least from a physical standpoint since neither are as proficient with the playbook as the soon-to-be-23-year-old. So for all we know, there may not be a portal QB walking through that door.

Maybe Freeze sees something in Thorne no one else does. But excitement surrounding his program and support from the top down could hinge on whether or not his gamble on Thorne and a group of freshmen pays off in 2024.