Hugh Freeze will put a cap on his first spring sessions as Auburn coach as the annual A-Day spring game takes place on Saturday. With a more optimistic outlook on the Plains since the end of the Bryan Harsin experiment, Auburn fans will get their first chance to see, collectively, the progress that's been made in Freeze's first few months.
Freeze's first order of business is to reignite an offense that lost its edge under the previous regime. The Tigers finished 10th in the SEC in scoring offense (24.8 points per game), total offense (378.4 yards per game) and average yards per play (5.70). Dual-threat quarterback Robby Ashford is back after starting for the majority of the 2022 season, and former starter TJ Finley is healthy after suffering a season-ending injury in September.
The defensive side of the ball will be interesting after star EDGE Derick Hall and linebacker Owen Pappoe moved on the NFL. Can Freeze find enough defense to complement his up-tempo offense? That was his plan at Ole Miss from 2012-16, and that blueprint will carry over to Auburn.
How to watch 2023 Auburn spring game live
Date: Saturday, April 8 | Time: 2 p.m. ET
Location: Jordan-Hare Stadum Stadium -- Auburn, Alabama
Live stream: SEC Network+
2023 Auburn spring game storylines
1. Who will lead the QB battle into summer workouts? Ashford had 709 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns last year, he and fits the dual-threat mold of typical Freeze quarterbacks. Finley, a 6-foot-7, 260-pounder who won the starting job coming out of fall camp last season, has a big arm and can take pressure off of the Tigers running game, led by Jarquez Hunter. However, a new contender has emerged. Freeze has been complimentary of freshman Holden Geriner's ability to stretch the field, and he'll likely get the chance to prove it in front of the crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
2. Can the Tigers get pressure? They finished 12th in the conference in tackles for loss (62) and ninth in sacks (26) in 2022, which simply won't cut it if they intend to be relevant in the SEC West. Defensive lineman Marcus Harris will have to step up his game and replace the leadership and contribution of three defensive linemen who departed for the NFL. Harris is the centerpiece of a defensive line that added a whopping 11 new players through the transfer portal and high school recruiting. Quarterbacks won't be live, so we won't get to see the true impact of the group. However, we will know more about Freeze's rough draft of the defensive line depth chart when the game wraps up.
3. What does the RB rotation look like? Tank Bigsby was the unquestioned star of the backfield for the last two seasons, but Hunter served as a fantastic No. 2. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound junior has 1,261 yards rushing and 285 receiving yards in two seasons with the Tigers. He has the speed to be a home-run hitter but is physical enough to be a force between the tackles. In 2023, however, teams can't have just one running back. Freeze lured former South Florida starter Brian Battie to the Plains after he rushed for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns for the Bulls last year. Battie is expected to be Hunter's running mate and serve as the team's primary kick returner.