It looks like Auburn football has two early favorites competing for their starting quarterback job in 2022, as coach Bryan Harsin noted that TJ Finley and Oregon transfer Robby Ashford got the essential quarterback reps for Auburn this spring after Saturday’s practice.
“It’s not as balanced as it was at the start,” Harsin said. “Some guys get more reps but that’s also a bit in training, look what a guy got in the previous workout, try to get some of these other guys maybe a bit more in the next to tie but TJ got quite a few reps, got the most Robby Ashford got more reps as we went.
After longtime starter Bo Nix entered the transfer portal on Dec. 13, he left the Tigers with open competition at quarterback, which has largely been between Finley, Ashford, Texas A&M transfer Zach Calzada and former four-star recruit and freshman Holden Geriner.
Dematrius Davis was also considered to be in contention for the spot before he entered the transfer portal on March 23.
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Of the remaining four, Finley is the only one with experience in an Auburn uniform. He played in nine games last season and made three starts, throwing for 827 yards and six touchdowns. The Tigers were 0-3 with Finley starting, including a 17-13 loss to Houston at the Birmingham Bowl and a 24-22 overtime thriller against Alabama.
A Hoover native and alumnus of Hoover High School, Ashford spent one season with Oregon but saw no playing time. The once-four-star prospect was also a two-sport athlete at Oregon, playing in 20 baseball games as a rookie.
“He’s trying to improve,” Harsin said of Ashford. “I think he cares. That’s what I like the most about him is that he wants to improve and he wants to play. He wants to be the best quarterback he can be. He is athletic, he can throw it, he has the tools.
Calzada has been limited in practice, Harsin said, as he is still nursing a shoulder injury that occurred against Auburn last season.
“He’s getting 7 on 7, he’s getting as many controlled reps as we can give him so he doesn’t get hit, injure that shoulder again,” Harsin said. “I know he wants to be there. He is dying to stand there and watch. He is in the yellow jersey, it kills him. He wants to go out there and play, and I know he can.
Calzada played 12 games with Texas A&M last season, including a 41-38 win over Alabama where he had 285 passing yards and three touchdowns. At College Station, he threw for 2,318 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Harsin also acknowledged Geriner’s learning curve as a first draftee this spring and said he’s looking forward to seeing how the rookie continues to progress as he learns about Auburn’s offense.
“What I know for real freshmen coming in the spring [is] the spring ball can be a lot after a while,” Harsin said. “There are quite a few attacks that you learn. And so I know he’s working on detailing all of this, but it’s just going to take time.
“The summer weather is going to be huge for him because he will know what we are doing. He will know how to use it better. And then comes fall camp, that’s what I’ve seen quarterbacks when they come in early, young quarterbacks, that’s how much progress they make when you come into fall camp.
Geriner, who played at the Benedictine Military School in Savannah, Georgia, signed with the Tigers on Feb. 1, 2021. He threw for 7,100 career yards and 71 high school touchdowns.
The Tigers are a week away from their spring A-Day game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. on April 9 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.