One of the most anticipated football seasons in the recent memory of The Plains has nearly arrived. Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze has completed his first offseason in charge of the Tigers, and now, fall camp is in full swing. Since spring practice concluded, Freeze and his staff added eight more players from the transfer portal, continued to build on a promising 2024 class and have begun the final preparations for the Sept. 2 season opener against UMass.

There are plenty of new players and positional competitions to keep an eye on, and these are some of the most intriguing camp battles to watch over the course of the next three weeks. 


– Notable departures: T.J. Finley

– Key returners: Robby Ashford, Holden Geriner

– New additions: Payton Thorne

T.J. Finley is gone after starting six games for Auburn in the last two years, but redshirt freshman Robby Ashford returns to the Tigers in 2023 after starting nine games last season. This doesn’t mean Ashford has a leg up in this fall’s quarterback battle, however, as Freeze’s new staff ushered in a clean slate policy once arriving on The Plains. Freeze and company brought in redshirt junior Michigan State transfer Payton Thorne this summer, citing a need for more experience (Thorne started the past two seasons for MSU) and competition within the quarterback clubhouse. Offensive coordinator Phillip Montgomery prefers a balanced offense, which might lend more towards Thorne, a more traditional, pocket-style quarterback, being Auburn’s guy. The uber-athletic Ashford, who makes up for his arm’s shortcomings with his legs, might be too much of a project, and do a little too much freelancing, for Freeze and Montgomery’s taste. Don’t sleep on former four-star Holden Geriner, either. The redshirt freshman was recruited by a different staff, but could best allow for the Freeze to build up his brand of Auburn football for years to come.


– Notable departures: Shedrick Jackson

– Key returners: Koy Moore, Ja’Varrius Johnson, Malcom Johnson Jr., Camden Brown, Jay Fair, Omari Kelly

– New additions: Caleb Burton, Nick Mardner, Jyaire Shorter, Shane Hooks

By far one of the biggest question marks surrounding the narrative of Auburn’s 2023 season is the pass catching corp. The argument can be made that Auburn’s best pass catcher in 2022 was super-senior tight end John Samuel Shenker. That means there is nowhere to go but up for the Tigers’ passing attack. The additions of Ohio State’s Caleb Burton (redshirt freshman), Cincinnati’s Nick Mardner and others through the transfer portal promises to raise the receiver group’s ceiling, while the returning junior Koy More, senior Ja’Varrius Johnson, sophomore Jay Fair and sophomore Omari Kelly will figure into the mix at the slot position. Along with Johnson, the experience in this year’s group comes from senior transfers Jyaire Shorter, Shane Hooks and Mardner. Sophomore Camden Brown has the size, speed and hands to make any football savant salivate over his potential, too. Expect the Tigers to get most of these guys in the mix during camp and throughout the early portion of the season as Freeze looks for someone(s) to separate from the pack.


– Notable departures: Derrick Hall, Colby Wooden, Eku Leota 

– Key returners: Jayson Jones, Marcus, Harris, Zykeivous Walker

– New additions: Justin Rogers, Elijah McAllister, Quientrail Jamison-Travis, Mosiah Nasili-Kite, Lawrence Johnson, Jalen McLeod, Keldric Faulk, Stephen Sings V

Arguably the most depleted position from the 2022 team, Auburn’s defensive line has undergone a major reshaping this offseason. The loses of All-SEC caliber guys like Derrick Hall and Colby Wooden will have to be made up for by a committee of guys. Vanderbilt transfer pass rusher Elijah McAllister (senior) represented the Tigers at SEC Media Days last month, indicating he’s a shoe-in to be one of the players who plays a large role in replacing that lost production in 2023. An additional early favorite to demand a high number of reps in the 2023 season is Kentucky transfer nose tackle Justin Rogers, who played in 33 games for the Wildcats in 2020-22, amassing 60 tackles, five for loss over that time. He and Jayson Jones, who transferred from Oregon during the 2022 offseason, should hold down the middle of the defense’s run defense along with senior Marcus Harris. Senior transfers Mosiah Nasili-Kite and Lawrence Johnson, juniors Zykeivous Walker, Jalen Mcleod (transfer from Appalachian State) and Stephen Sings V (transfer from Liberty), the No. 3-ranked junior college transfer defensive lineman Quientrail Jamison-Traivs, and freshmen Keldric Faulk and Darron Reed will all be competing to carve out a niche along the ambiguous defensive front.


– Notable departures: Tank Bigsby

– Key returners: Jarquez Hunter, Damari Alston

– New additions: Brain Battie, Jeremiah Cobb

Auburn’s workhorse in the run game for the past two season, Tank Bigsby, now plays in the NFL for the Jacksonville Jaguars. His understudy, junior Jarquez Hunter, returned to practice this week after missing the first few days presumably due to the handling of an off-the-field offseason misconduct incident. Only time will tell how the discipline for that situation shakes up. If Hunter misses no time due to his off-the-field issues, he is a shoe-in to handle the bulk of the rushing attempts for the Tigers in 2023. However, the rest of the running back room, which includes USF junior transfer Brian Battie, sophomore Damari Alston and freshman Jeremiah Cobb (the consensus No. 2 all-purpose back in the 2023 class), poses a configuration of experience, talent and versatility that cannot be ignored by Freeze and company. How much Freeze and Montgomery will choose to utilize the experience of Hunter and Battie, versus the raw potential of Alston and Cobb, will be an interesting dynamic throughout 2023 for the Tigers. 


– Notable departures: Killian Zierer, Brenden Coffey, Brandon Council, Austin Troxell

– Key returners: Tate Johnson, Kam Stutts, Avery Jones, Jalil Irvin, Jeremiah Wright 

– New additions: Gunner Britton, Dillon Wade, Jaden Muskrat, Izavion Miller, Connor Lew  

Hitting new lows over the course of the past two seasons, the Auburn offensive line needed a revival in the talent department heading into 2023. Well, Freeze and his staff went out and secured transfers from top prospects Gunner Britton, Dillon Wade, Jaden Muskrat and Izavion Miller, all of whom figure to be entrenched in camp battles for a starting position. The returning Tate Johnson spent much of the spring at right guard, while Kam Stutts (who started 12 games at right and left guard in 2022) admirably filled in Johnson’s stead for a stretch. Although the experience of Johnson, Stutts, Avery Jones, Jalil Irvin and Jeremiah Wright gave them a leg up in spring practice, the summer and beginning of fall camp coincided with the Tigers’ having two-deep position battles across the entire offensive line. The Tigers’ offensive line was abysmal in 2022, so the emergence of a few transfers — or even a talented freshman like 3-star Connor Lew — as starters, seems more likely than not in 2023.


– Notable departures: Owen Pappoe

– Key returners: Cam Riley, Wesley Steiner, Eugene Asante, Robert Woodyard

– New additions: Austin Keys, Larry Nixon III

Despite adding Ole Miss transfer Austin Keys and North Texas’ Larry Nixon III to the roster for 2023, the Auburn linebacker corps is probably the thinnest group in terms of talent on the Tigers’ roster this season. Owen Pappoe held down the middle of Auburn’s defense for four years, and his departure to the NFL this past offseason leaves a gaping hole in the second level. His absence means a leadership deficiency too. The returning culprits most likely to step up into Pappoe’s shoes are juniors Cam Riley and Eugene Asante (2022 transfer from North Carolina), along with senior Wesley Steiner. Most often, it was Riley or Steiner lining up next to Pappoe in 2022. Keys and Nixon were brought in for a reason, however, and redshirt freshman Robert Woodyard Jr. (rated the No. 5 linebacker in the 2022 class by Rivals) may possess too much potential to keep off the field if the more experienced guys cannot separate themselves.