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Hugh Freeze ‘cautiously optimistic’ about transfer additions

Stephen Samraby:Steve Samra05/12/24


Hugh Freeze and the Auburn Tigers have been cerebral in the transfer portal, adding some talented players at key positions, but not willing to go overboard.

It’s a sound strategy that’s helped the Tigers improve a ton on paper. Players like KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Philip Blidi, Jerrin Thompson and Robert Lewis could make an instant impact for Auburn, and that’s what Freeze is banking on.

However, the Auburn leader doesn’t want to put too much pressure on them just yet. He’s optimistic, but there’s certainly a bit of trepidation when the Tigers coach speaks about his transfer portal additions to the team.

“Well, we’ll see,” Freeze said, asked how much hope Auburn received from the portal. “I know that the ones that we got in spring, combined with the high school additions, definitely improved us.

“The late additions that we’ve just added, you know we haven’t had them yet, but we feel good about them, and they added some quality depth to us, particularly on the defensive line, where we added some quality players we think, so hopefully — and at receiver. So we’re cautiously optimistic about our additions.”

Auburn certainly looked to improve their defense, and get quarterback Payton Thorne a few more weapons to throw to on the offensive side of the ball. It seems to all have worked out pretty well for the Tigers.

Alas, Auburn won’t be judged simply by their additions though, the Tigers will have to win some football games. We’ll see if Hugh Freeze and company can get the job done in 2024, his second season on the job.

Hugh Freeze on Payton Thorne: ‘I’m a believer’

Moreover, Hugh Freeze is entering his second season with the Auburn Tigers, and many questions loom large, including one at quarterback. 

However, Freeze doesn’t particularly believe that’s true, it seems. He’s locked in with Payton Thorne as his starting quarterback once again, and it’s evident the coach is a big time believer in the former transfer from the Big Ten.

“I’m a believer in Payton,” Freeze told the media, earlier this week. “Obviously, I know that, you know, quarterbacks, they’re either going to take praise or criticism, there’s nowhere in between. He certainly has had his good and bad moments, but I do believe, with better pieces around him, that he has the ability to be a great leader, and a really solid quarterback in this league. 

“I think he senses, more of a cohesiveness, in the staff and what we’re trying to do, that fits his skillset. So hopefully, that will translate into him playing more confidently.”

Thorne was inconsistent, but he did show flashes last season. Freeze believes Auburn’s new quarterback coach Kent Austin will go a long way towards developing the player that Thorne could be.

“Kent, I think is the — I get a lot credit for the past play of the quarterbacks, but truthfully, it really should go to him,” Freeze stated. “He’s the best quarterback coach that I’ve been around. He and Dan Warner are both as solid as they come. I think he is really going to help that whole quarterback room with their development. 

“He understands coverages, and is able to teach in a unique way. So I think he’s going to be very, very valuable, in how they play.”

Alas, it’s evident the belief is there, now it’s up to Payton Thorne to show why it’s so prevalent, as the Auburn Tigers move into a pivotal 2024 campaign.