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T.J. Finley addresses Auburn QB situation, uncertainty that lies ahead

Justin Hokansonby:Justin Hokanson04/08/23

_JHokanson

AUBURN — T.J. Finley is on track to graduate this spring. Following his graduation, Finley could transfer without having to sit out a season, despite already having transferred from LSU to Auburn after the 2020 season.

With that in mind, and as Finley battles Robby Ashford and Holden Geriner for the quarterback job at Auburn (and anyone else who Hugh Freeze might bring in from the transfer portal), Finley addressed the quarterback situation on Saturday after the Tigers’ A-Day game that resulted in a 24-24 tie.

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“I believe I can compete with anybody in the country,” Finley said. “That’s why I transferred here from LSU. I felt like I could compete with Bo Nix. Competition doesn’t scare me. I know who I am and what I can do. And with the right coaches, I know who I can grow into and hopefully this is the place.

“Competition brings out the best in everybody and if you can’t handle competition, you don’t need to be in this industry. That’s how I look at it. I serve a great God and God has put me here for a reason.”

Finley finished A-Day completing one pass for four yards during the 30-minute scrimmage in a constant downpour. Ashford started the game with the “ones,” with Finley as the second quarterback off the bench, followed by Geriner. All the quarterbacks received equal snaps and possessions.

Hugh Freeze said after the game, as he’s said before, that Auburn is in the market for a transfer portal quarterback, given the culture fit is the right one. And while Finley said he’s not afraid of competition, Freeze’s decision to bring in a transfer quarterback is clearly something he’s thinking about.

“I won’t know until they bring one in,” Finley said. “I’ll have to have a conversation with Coach Freeze. He said it multiple times. It’s up in the air whether he wants to or not, that’s his personal decision. I’m going to compete and if I’m not the best guy — if I’m not the best guy, I’m going to compete.”

When Finley was directly asked if he would remain at Auburn, even if Freeze brought in a transfer portal quarterback, Finley answered, “I’m not sure. I’m just focusing on having a good Sunday and having a good dinner with my family.”

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Finley’s college journey has been anything but smooth. He played in five games as a freshman at LSU before transferring to Auburn. After backing up Nix for most of the 2021 season, Finley started the final three games following a season-ending ankle injury to Nix. Finley went 0-3 as a starter in those three gaames.

He then started the 2022 season as the starter, leading Auburn to wins over Mercer and San Jose State, but was then injured during the Penn State game and didn’t start another game all season. Then, prior to a road game at Mississippi State, Finley didn’t travel with the team and failed to dress for the remaining three games against Texas A&M, Western Kentucky or Alabama.

Finley’s father said last fall that Finley took a “mental health break.” Finley himself talked briefly about that on Saturday, saying he “took a step away from the team last year” and the “time off helped me reflect and learn about myself, and dive deep into who T.J. Finley is.”

“I’m completely healed and a good person now that I’m back and 100 percent healthy,” he said.

And when asked if he wants to be Auburn’s starting quarterback, Finley said, “most definitely. If I didn’t want to be, I wouldn’t be here.”

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