Auburn football rumors: 3 QBs Hugh Freeze still needs to consider in the portal

Sep 2, 2023; Auburn, Alabama, USA;  Auburn Tigers head coach Hugh Freeze talks with quarterback
Sep 2, 2023; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Hugh Freeze talks with quarterback / John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
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All indications are that the Auburn Tigers, specifically head coach Hugh Freeze, are happy to go into the 2024 college football season with Payton Thorne as his quarterback. Possibly just as important in that conversation is that Freeze has indicated in conversations with the media that he doesn't plan to use the transfer portal to upgrade at the position.

That doesn't mean they shouldn't look to find an upgrade, though.

It was obvious that Thorne, who transferred to Auburn from Michigan State ahead of the 2023 season, improved throughout the year. But even still, his production still left quite a lot to be desired. Thorne completed 62.6 percent of his 238 pass attempts for just 1,671 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions, though he did add 520 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

With Robby Ashford also entering the portal, though, Auburn could use another capable signal-caller in the program. While they won't have a chance at guys like Maalik Murphy, Dillon Gabriel and Dante Moore who have already committed to new programs and likely not with even Cam Ward as he appears likely to land with Florida State or Miami, Freeze and the Tigers could re-examine QB in the portal and find someone who could have a huge positive impact on the team in 2024 and beyond.

3. Malachi Nelson could be the Auburn QB for the future

Admittedly, if Auburn were to go into the transfer portal for a quarterback, you'd have to believe that Freeze would be doing so for someone with on-field experience and likely some enticing production already in his college football career. However, if he were to swing for the fences, then former USC Trojans 5-star recruit Malachi Nelson should be quite enticing.

Nelson was the No. 5 quarterback and No. 12 overall recruit in the 2023 cycle a year ago, initially committing to go play for Lincoln Riley at USC. The expectation, at least optically, seems to be that Caleb Williams would play his final year and then the reins would be handed over to the highly touted Nelson. That plan, however, changed somewhere along the line, which seemingly led to Nelson entering his name into the portal.

Though Freeze has expressed clear confidence in Thorne in addition to former 4-star sophomore Holden Geriner and even incoming 4-star Walker White, neither of the backup options are proven. And as discussed, one could reasonably worry about the ceiling with Thorne.

That's where Nelson would make sense. The California product is immensely talented, hence his recruiting pedigree. With Freeze's ability to maximize the talent of his quarterbacks historically, pairing him with a player who has the upside and potential that Nelson possesses could yield wildly successful results as soon as next season, but most certainly in the long run for the Auburn program on the field.