Hugh Freeze Reportedly Picks Transfer Portal QB Payton Thorne To Be Auburn’s Opening Week Starter

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After being named head coach at Auburn, Hugh Freeze knew he needed to find some help at the quarterback position. After a few close calls, Freeze snagged Michigan State transfer Payton Thorne from the transfer portal, and now it sounds like Thorne will take the first snap of 2023 season.

According to AuburnLive, Freeze will name Payton Thorne the starting quarterback in the near future, putting an end to the quarterback competition. Coming off last season, the Tigers were in desperate need of someone who Freeze thought could run his offense. Not that Robby Ashford and Holden Geriner weren’t capable, but there was a reason Freeze was searching the portal so hard.

Throwing for 6,493 yards, 49 touchdowns and 24 interceptions during his time in East Lansing, Payton Thorne is now the main guy at Auburn. A complex offensive system, Thorne picked up the scheme in a pretty short manner of time, according to folks in the Auburn program.

The question now is whether or not he can lead the Tigers to a successful season in Hugh Freeze’s first year on the plains. In all honesty, this shouldn’t come as a major shock, as Auburn scoured the portal for potential additions at the position. This is not an indictment of Robby Ashford, who threw for 1,613 yards, 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions last season.

Hugh Freeze has reportedly named Payton Thorne the starting quarterback at Auburn
Payton Thorne #10 of the Michigan State Spartans attempts a pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second half at Beaver Stadium on November 26, 2022 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Hugh Freeze Needed To Find His Guy From The Portal

In making this move, Freeze has shown that experience on the plains did not matter and there was a need to fill a gap in the offense. Also, Payton Thorne was not a participant in Auburn’s spring practice, arriving in the early summer.

According to Auburn offensive coordinator Phillip Montgomery, Thorne has spent countless hours trying to learn this offense in a short period of time.

“He’s another guy that you’ve got to run out of the building. He’s always watching tape, he’s always studying at home. He will text me, ‘Hey, what do I read on this, or what am I doing on that? I saw this on tape, how are we progressing through this?’ He wants to be on top of every detail that is involved in our offense,”

Auburn's Hugh Freeze Says Spring Games Should Be Played Against Different Teams
Head football coach Hugh Freeze of the Auburn Tigers during the second half of their game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Neville Arena on January 07, 2023 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

Even with the move to make Thorne the starter, Auburn will have depth at the position in case something goes awry. Robby Ashford has played an SEC schedule and knows what it takes to play in the conference, even though the win/loss column might now show it.

Another aspect of the offense that will help Payton Thorne is the running back position, with Jarquez Hunter back with the team. He certainly has the chance to be one of the best backs in the SEC this season, which will take some of the weight off Thorne.

The Tigers open the season against Umass, while playing California, Texas A&M and Georgia during the month of September.

Written by Trey Wallace

Trey Wallace is the host of The Trey Wallace Podcast that focuses on a mixture of sports, culture, entertainment along with his perspective on everything from College Football to the College World Series.

Wallace has been covering college sports for 15 years, starting off while attending the University of South Alabama. He’s broken some of the biggest college stories including the Florida football “Credit Card Scandal” along with the firing of Jim McElwin and Kevin Sumlin. Wallace also broke one of the biggest stories in college football in 2020 around the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations against Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Wallace also appears on radio across seven different states breaking down that latest news in college sports.

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