Oregon transfer quarterback Robby Ashford threw his helmet in the ring of Auburn’s quarterback battle Saturday as he won offensive Most Valuable Player honors at the spring game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Ashford, a redshirt freshman from Hoover, Alabama, who did not take a snap in two seasons at Oregon while also playing baseball, completed 12 of 16 passes for 132 yards as Team Auburn edged Team Tigers, 10-9.
Ashford (6-foot-3, 212 pounds), working with the second team offense against the first team defense, displayed impressive accuracy as he often hit well-covered receivers perfectly and scrambled well, including a 13-yard run for a first down.
“It was good to see Robby go out there and play,” Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said. “Robby’s learning a whole new system. He’s very, very athletic, and you guys could see that today.”
Ashford showed signs of being a better game performer than practice player.
“One of Robby’s strengths is going to be live,” Harsin said.
Ashford completed 5 of 6 passes for 47 yards in the first half and started the second half with 6-of-7 pasing for 80 yards.
“He did some good things. Got the ball out of his hands, made some good throws. You’ve got a rush, real football,” Harsin said.
Junior T.J. Finley, who started three games last season after backing up Bo Nix, entered and exited spring taking most of the snaps with the first team. He completed 11 of 19 passes for 137 yards with a 20-yard touchdown to wide receiver Malcolm Johnson Jr.
“T.J. really smart now. He’s got a good feel out there,” Harsin said. “He’s really stepped up as a leader.”
But the competition will continue through August. Early enrollee freshman Holden Geriner completed 9 of 11 passes for 71 yards with a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Landen King with 24 seconds left to get Team Tigers within 10-9. But he missed on a two-point conversion pass.
“It was good to see Holden just cut it loose and play,” Harsin said.
Texas A&M transfer quarterback Zach Calzada, who was the Aggies’ starter last season, did not play as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery, but he will be in the mix come August.
“Well, we haven’t named a starter, all right,” Harsin said. “So, I would say every guy at that position has a chance to be the guy. This competition continues.”
And comments like that can keep guys from entering the transfer portal – or at least delay it.
“You’ve got to get into a system,” Harsin said. “There’s no shortcuts to that. There really isn’t.”
The other football field may appear greener via the portal, but each transfer must start over. Auburn redshirt freshman quarterback DeMatrius Davis entered the transfer portal after only a week of spring drills.
“You’ve got to get into a system. You’ve got to learn it,” Harsin said. “You’ve got to develop, and you have to understand the details of what you’re doing.”
In August, though, Harsin will have to decide who his No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks are.
“We’re going to have to at some point after that first scrimmage, we’ve got to hone it down to, ‘All right, here’s our top guys.’ Get them more reps, and then make a decision,” he said.
And then the transfers or transfer will likely happen. But Harsin has a plan for that.
“We’ll name a starter, but that does’t mean the other guys won’t have a role somewhere on this team,” he said.