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Auburn needs a quarterback, and Payton Thorne might be the answer. “Might” being the key word.
The Tigers are entering their first season with Hugh Freeze as head coach after firing Brian Harsin near the end of last season. After four years at Liberty, Freeze inherited a quarterback room with a lot of uncertainty.
Former four-star recruit Robby Ashford split time with T.J. Finley through the first few weeks of the 2022 season before taking over as the full-time starter in Week 4. Both Ashford and Finley returned in 2023 and entered a three-way battle with former four-star Holden Geriner.
None of the three signal-callers stood out during spring practice, and their rain-soaked spring game performance was abysmal. Spring games ultimately don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but it was not an inspiring afternoon.
Freeze made it very clear that he is not ready to name a starter ahead of fall camp, and left the door wide open for someone to transfer-in before things ramp back up over the summer. The Tigers whiffed on both Grayson McCall and Spencer Sanders, but have their eyes on two possible targets.
Casey Thompson, who spent a year at Texas and a year at Nebraska, was on The Plains over the weekend. Not long thereafter, on Tuesday, Finley entered the portal as a graduate transfer.
Casey Thompson is one option. Payton Thorne is the other.
The 21-year-old, former three-star recruit started each of the last two seasons at Michigan State. He entered the transfer portal on the first of the month and will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Thorne completed 61% of his 861 pass attempts for 6,493 yards and 49 touchdowns with 24 interceptions over three years in East Lansing. The Spartans went 11-2 in 2021 and 5-7 in 2022.
There have been a lot of reports and rumors that link Thorne to Auburn, but he has yet to visit or receive an offer— as far as we know. With that said, his social media activity just hours after Finley’s departure might allude to an interest in playing for Freeze.
Thorne follows 426 accounts on Instagram. The 425th, which he followed on Tuesday, is Auburn football.
Could Thorne following Auburn be a coincidence? Sure? Maybe.
He could also be playing head games.
However, historically, social media activity and the transfer portal often go hand-in-hand. Rarely does a player who has entered the portal and follows a specific team on Instagram not end up taking a visit, at the very least. A good chunk of those athletes end up playing for the program that they followed on social media.
If there was ever a time to use the eyeballs emoji, it would be now!