Even before Hugh Freeze saw his quarterbacks go through spring practice, he was looking to add another body to the room. TJ Finley entering the NCAA transfer portal made the decision easier, with Auburn having the opportunity to add an impact player. Payton Thorne wound up being the guy, recently announcing his commitment to the Tigers.
This left Robby Ashford in a potentially weird spot. Thorne was likely going to enter and win the starting job despite Ashford inheriting the spot from last season. While many would think competition would scare Ashford, it did the opposite. He welcomed Thorne to the Plains and was ready to go head-to-head in fall camp.
“I absolutely love this response from Robby Ashford,” On3’s J.D. PicKell said. “This is a progrum guy kind of response. A lot of people are going to see this and say ‘well, he can’t transfer anyway, right? Transfer portal window has closed.’ That’s true… Robby Ashford, he knew somebody was coming into that quarterback room. Heck, all we have done is talk about it since the transfer portal window opened.
“They actively went after other guys to get them into that room. Robby Ashford could have transferred multiple times. Instead, he decided to stay in Auburn, he decided to fight for his job.”
PicKell believes Ashford has the opportunity to set the precedent for Auburn moving forward under Freeze as well. If he is going to embrace competition despite outside help being brought into the program, players at other positions may do the same.
“Robby Ashford’s response speaks volumes to his competitive character and it is exactly what you would want from everybody else in your locker room,” PicKell said. “You are judged on how you take on adversity, how you meet challenges.
“And for this to be his attitude to say ‘I’m here, alright let’s work. I could have transferred out a while ago. I knew somebody else was coming. Payton Thorne, Casey Thompson, didn’t matter. I’m here. I’m here, I’m going to fight for this job.’ I love that response and if that permeates throughout the locker room, that’s a very good sign for the Auburn Tigers.”
Ashford finished last season as the starter with Cadillac Williams serving as interim head coach. There were struggles when being asked to throw from the pocket. But once Ashford was on the run, he was able to make some real dazzling plays.
Meaning — there is still some development on the table for Ashford. Thorne is a more complete product and will likely start under Freeze, who needs to win early in his tenure. That does not mean Ashford will not give it his best attempt, though.
“I wholeheartedly believe that Peyton Thorne will be the starting quarterback at Auburn,” PicKell said. “Game 1 — Peyton Thorne transferred in for a reason. He’s going to start at Auburn if you were to ask me… I’ll tell you one thing. Robby Ashford don’t care. Robby Ashford is staying and is going to fight for his job.”
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