Image default

Observations from Auburn’s A-Day 2024

The Auburn Family gathered inside Jordan Hare Stadium under a gloriously blue sky to catch a glimpse of the 2024 edition of their Tigers as Auburn held their final practice of the spring on Pat Dye Field in the annual A-Day game.

And what ensued was actually a pretty entertaining spring display. The Tigers’ defense was spotted 27 points, and it was the offense’s job to close the gap. And close the gap they did. The offense struggled to find any real consistency for much of the game, but a few splash plays from freshman receiver and a dream-like stat line from freshman kicker Townes McGough allowed the offense to claw their way to a victory over the defense 28-27

Here are a few observations from the scrimmage.

Kicker U is alive and very well.

Auburn could be argued as The U for many positions. There’s generally a good defensive back or two on the roster, I can rattle off the names of plenty of high grade pass rushers, and many people already list Auburn as their Running Back U. But if there is one thing Auburn does that stands out from the crowd, its kickers. In fact, I’m not even sure who would come in second in that debate.

Auburn has always sported kickers that were worth a War Damn, and that trend has only gotten stronger since I’ve been old enough to give a War Damn. Even in years where the offense struggles to find paydirt in the red zone (which seems to be a trend all its own) you can rely on the kicker to be a bright spot.

Names like Al Del Greco, Damon Duval, Cody Parkey, John Vaughn, and Wes Byrum (National Championship game winner) fill out Auburn’s top ten scorers list, and a pair of brothers sit atop that list. Older brother Daniel Carlson is Auburn’s all time scorer with 480 points, and he passed the baton to younger brother Anders, the number two scorer in Auburn’s history.

Anders passed that same baton to current kicker Alex McPherson (younger brother of Cincinnati Bengal and former Florida Gator great, Evan). The redshirt sophomore is off to a blistering start in his Auburn career. He has hit 19 consecutive kicks after missing his very first attempt in the orange and blue, and he hit all 13 attempts he took in 2023.

But McPherson is not the kicker that has fans buzzing after A-Day. McPherson says his health is good, but he is trying to take it easy in spring after dealing with a nagging hamstring injury he suffered late last season. And in his place stepped true freshman and Auburn High School social media sensation, Townes McGough. McGough took full advantage of his chance in the spotlight, and gave Auburn fans a reason to feel confident about when life without McPherson comes.

The offense’s ineffectiveness in the red zone set the stage for the freshman to put together video game level stats (if anybody actually kicked in video games) as he hit all seven of his attempts, including the 58 yard bomb to win the game as the extremely cool cherry on top of a great day. With that level of clutch performance and accuracy from distance sitting behind McPherson’s proven consistency and power of his own (career long 53 yards, says he’s comfortable attempting from 65) Auburn fans should feel confident in the future of their program’s rich tradition.

Quarterbacks played well, but consistency with accuracy continues to be an issue.

There was not a lot of fan excitement surrounding the quarterback position heading into spring after Payton Thorne and Robby Ashford combined for a less than stellar season in 2023. And the offseason didn’t do much to raise expectations. Robby left for South Carolina, and Auburn was quiet in the transfer portal despite rumors of interest from some of the bigger names that were searching for new homes.

Hugh Freeze pegged concerns about losing Thorne or 2023 third stringer Holden Geriner as his reason for lack of aggression in the portal, and sticking with his current QB room. In recruiting, the Tigers landed four star and top ten quarterback Walker White. Some have pointed to Hugh’s affinity for White and his potential as the true reason for the Tigers’ portal patience.

There were positive reports out of spring camp for all four of Auburn’s scholarship QBs, which includes 2023 commit and Music City Bowl bright spot, Hank Brown. Along with the positive came the reports saying that all four had plenty of room for improvement. And after I watched all four of them take ample snaps Saturday, as they rotated early and often, I can tell you that I concur with the sentiment. I saw a lot that I loved from the group, but I also saw a lot of space for growth.

There were no surprises as Payton Thorne took the field first for the Tigers. Hugh Freeze said early last week that Thorne would roll into fall camp as the starter, but that the gap between Thorne and the other guys wasn’t very big. Thorne certainly didn’t do anything to lose any ground Saturday, and put together a really respectable stat line, completing 9 of 13 pass attempts for 133 yards and the game’s only touchdown. He was also credited with 20 yards on the ground, which could have been more or less in a live game situation. The stats paint a really pretty picture, and Thorne played well for the most part. But I thought the few misses he did have were reminiscent of the accuracy issues we are familiar with from last season. And his touchdown came on an exceptional play from the freshman wideout, Cam Coleman.

Still no shockers as far as the depth chart is concerned if you judge by the order the Tigers rotated the QBs. Redshirt sophomore Holden Geriner came in for the second offensive possession, and I thought he appeared more comfortable than any other appearance I had seen him make in an Auburn uniform. He completed 7 of 10 passes for 46 yards, and did a decent job of keeping the ball out of harm’s way, but showed nothing as far as a level of pizazz that would spark Auburn fans to desire him over Thorne.

Hank Brown showed some potential for the type of pizazz I’m talking about when the redshirt freshman launched a 49 yard bomb to Cam Coleman on his first pass attempt. Coleman laid out to haul in the pass, and Auburn fans’ mouths salivated. Brown showed plenty of arm talent, but had a few bad misses on his way to a 5 of 12 passes and a 102 yard performance.

Walker White rounded out the group, and he showed mostly what I had expected from the true freshman early enrollee. He flashed all of the favorable traits that he showed in his high school tape, a big and impressive looking kid, a live arm with plenty of zip, a pretty ball with a tight spiral, and instinctive athleticism in and out of the pocket. He also seemed to show quick decision making, despite Freeze mentioning that White was “swimming”  this spring, as he was learning the offense and adapting to the college game. And he too dealt with the accuracy issues that the rest of the group did.

All of the quarterbacks showed velocity on their throws, and showed flashes of excellence.And all seemed willing to push the ball downfield, which was just refreshing to see in the offense as a whole. But it ultimately comes down to consistency and completions, and I’m not sure anybody left A-Day with great expectations for that department. Overall, I still see Thorne as the starter under center for the Tigers come August 31, but hopefully a better version. And I think Auburn fans can be encouraged about the future after what they saw from the other three.

The receiver corps is new and improved, and Cam Coleman is that guy.

Finally, we get to talk about what we all want to be talking about. Cam Coleman. The five star receiver and recruiting class crown jewel showed out in a big way in his first public appearance in an Auburn uniform. His first series was quiet. One reception for one yard. Though, he did have to adjust to make that one yard reception, and showed some A.J. Green level of body control. I thought it was cool, at least.

But it was his second reception, that bomb from Brown, that really got the crowd’s attention. Coleman beat the corner on a post, and had a step or two, and completely stretched out in a dive to bring the ball in, again showing off ridiculous body control. He later turned in the game’s only touchdown on an acrobatic catch against tight coverage. Coleman finished the day with 4 catches for 92 yards, and the one score. And props to the coaching staff for featuring the kid. Coleman has been the talk of the entire offseason for Auburn, from the recruiting flip from A&M to the love he’s received in spring camp. Giving him a chance to shine paid off for him, the offense, and especially the fan base.

Coleman leads a revamped receiver group who also saw nice days from fellow newcomer and Georgia State transfer Robert Lewis who finished the day with 5 receptions for 73 yards, and veteran Camden Brown, 3 receptions for 45 yards. This group has taken a lot of flack over the last few seasons for their inability to separate and consistently catch the ball, and has not had a true number one option since Seth Williams. But the group seems revitalized with the additions of Coleman, Lewis, and Cal transfer and former QB Sam Jackson V. Five star Perry Thompson and four star Malcom Simmons will join the group in the fall, and four star Bryce Cain is already on campus.

What has been a weak point for the team over the last few years looks to become a strength in 2024. And perhaps Auburn’s first 1,000 yard receiver since 1999 is currently sitting on the roster.

Realistically there’s not much you can seriously take away from a spring game. Offensive and defensive schemes are generally kept very vanilla, and contact is limited, especially with the quarterbacks. But I think we saw enough Saturday to be fairly optimistic about the Tigers and their goings forward. Even if the brightest spots were from a freshman receiver and the backup kicker.

Related posts

Leave a Reply