You could sense the disappointment in Hugh Freeze’s voice.

After a week of nothing but beautiful weather, of course, Auburn’s spring game fell on the day that the skies opened up and the temperatures dropped into the 50s. If it were just a normal day of practice, Auburn moves indoors and doesn’t think twice about inclement weather. But on this day, wherein Freeze was hoping to get another piece of the evaluation process to determine his first QB1, he got soggy, awful conditions for airing it out.

Freeze shared his pregame disappointment on SEC Network.

Yep. Freeze was right.

Amidst sloppy conditions, there was no real evaluation. Sure, there was the decision-making aspect of Auburn’s quarterback competition. But Saturday’s conditions made an already limited evaluation, well, still limited.

A game that ended with a walk-off field goal for a tie fittingly also had no real result worth documenting in what appears to be an extremely fluid quarterback room.

We saw:

  • A) 0 passes completed in the first quarter
  • B) 1 pass completed for positive yards in the first half
  • C) Several dropped passes in the rain
  • D) 5 combined complete passes by 3 QBs
  • E) All the above

It’s “E.” It’s always “E.”

The only real impressive throw and catch on the day came from the favorite in the clubhouse, Robby Ashford. It was a 39-yard strike down the seam to Tar’Varish Dawson.

With all due respect to Ashford, who looked comfortable running the offense in his limited reps, that 1 throw wasn’t going to make or break Freeze’s decision.

To be fair, even an A-Day with perfect weather could’ve still left Freeze feeling like his evaluation was incomplete. After all, none of his quarterbacks were live. It was always going to be difficult to use Saturday to judge if Ashford, TJ Finley and Holden Geriner handle pressure and deliver on-target throws.

At one point, Freeze was mic’d up on SEC Network and he shared his frustration with Finley throwing downfield into triple coverage instead of hitting the check down for an open first down. That’s not ideal from a guy entering Year 4 at the Power 5 level.

Then again, so is Ashford. You could’ve made the case that Ashford had the most to lose as the incumbent starter who would ideally follow the Malik Willis path to success under Freeze. The issue with Ashford is that he’s a rather incomplete evaluation. He might’ve taken over the starting job in 2022, but after his first full offseason playing football (he played baseball in his first 2 springs at Oregon), he was still extremely raw as a passer. It helped Auburn’s offense have a pulse in the final month when the mobile Ashford used his legs even more, but it didn’t help Freeze’s future evaluation.

Therein lies the challenge. Is Freeze going to dip into the transfer portal to find his next QB1? The post-spring window now goes from April 15-29 instead of May 1-15. One would think after there was reportedly mutual interest in Grayson McCall and Spencer Sanders that Freeze will again test the waters of the portal.

Nothing from Saturday’s spring game screamed “build around this guy.” Again, though. That was never likely with the limitations. Seeing how Ashford moved as a runner in a non-contact jersey wasn’t in question.

Freeze spoke more about the quarterback room as a whole instead of speaking specifically about getting into the weeds of a sloppy, run-heavy A-Day:

Perhaps the more interesting development was Freeze sharing that it’ll be new offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery handling the role of primary play-caller. He did so throughout A-Day with Freeze taking more of the CEO approach. Freeze told the SEC Network crew that he’d still like to have the ability to step in for a series if he sees something, but that it’ll be Montgomery’s responsibility.

Ideally, Montgomery will jump-start a passing game that hasn’t finished in the top 60 since 2009. Freeze’s offense isn’t 1-dimensional, nor should it be with 8 new offensive linemen on the roster.

But it’s a tricky sell to a potential transfer portal quarterback knowing the task at hand. It’ll be limited reps in a new system, and in addition to an overhauled offensive line to work with, it’s a group of receivers that hasn’t exactly been getting rave reviews (expect Freeze to be active in the portal with more wideouts). Stepping into the nation’s toughest division with those potential surrounding factors might not appeal to everyone.

Fortunately for Auburn, it does have the Freeze factor. The guy has 5 top-40 passing offenses at Ole Miss and Liberty. Even if more rough times await for this passing game in the immediate future, Freeze is the silver lining.

The new Auburn coach clearly wanted to focus on offense on Saturday. He set the score at 24-0 in favor of the defense with mostly equal reps for Ashford, Finley and Geriner. All 3 signal-callers were from the Bryan Harsin era, yet they stuck around in hopes of running a Freeze offense.

It remains to be seen if any of them will get that opportunity in 2023, or if Freeze has other plans.

All we know is that nowhere in Freeze’s QB evaluation plan was a cold, sloppy A-Day.