Auburn has found its starting quarterback to open the season.
After spring practices, summer workouts and fall camp, it was reported by ESPN's Chris Low and later announced by the University via Twitter on Sunday that junior T.J. Finley will lead the Auburn offense for the 2022 season opener versus Mercer on September 3 (6 p.m. CST on ESPN+).
Finley beat out Oregon transfer Robby Ashford and Texas A&M transfer Zach Calzada for the starting spot. Ashford spent two seasons at Oregon but never saw the field, while Calzada was at Texas A&M for three seasons and started 10 games for the Aggies in 2021.
Harsin elected to go with continuity and pick the QB who started three games for the Tigers last season after former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix broke his ankle against Mississippi State.
That familiarity paired with what Harsin calls Finley’s “coach’s mentality” is what the coaching staff believes gives them the best chance to win this fall as they have a tense season ahead of them.
In nine games last season, Finley threw for 827 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. Finley also recorded one rushing touchdown.
Throughout the 2021 season, Finley’s performance was highlighted with some highs and lows.
Most notably in 2021, Finley was the hero for Auburn in the Tigers’ 10-point win over Georgia State. The six-foot-seven QB orchestrated a game-winning 98-yard drive against the Panthers capped off with an acrobatic pass to Shedrick Jackson to win the game.
However, Auburn went 0-3 with Finley under center as a starter including a postseason loss to Houston in the Birmingham Bowl to solidify Auburn’s first losing season since the Tigers went 3-9 in 2012.
For Finley, though, the job is not over. He will need to show improvements with his accuracy and quickness to keep his job as Ashford and Calzada will continue to push for that top spot once the season begins.
The Louisiana native only tossed one interception last season, but his completion percentage ranked No. 20 in the SEC among quarterbacks who played five or more games.
With Mercer and San Jose State as Auburn’s first two opponents it is reasonable to expect Ashford and potentially Calzada to see the field as Harsin gets a feel for how the quarterbacks play outside of practice.
But for now, the job belongs to Finley, who has earned the trust of the coaching staff that faces a pivotal 2022 season.
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Jacob is a sophomore from Leeds, Alabama. This is his second year with The Auburn Plainsman.