Auburn Football 2021 Positional Preview: Quarterbacks
Who will be under center for the Tigers in 2021?
This is the first of an eight part season preview season for Auburn’s 2021 season. There will be a new piece every week until the season kicks off September 4th against Akron. Today we start with Quarterbacks.
Auburn brings a mixed bag to the QB position in 2021. There’s experience, a lot of inconsistency, and two exciting new faces. Bo Nix is entering his third year on The Plains, and has yet to live up to his 5- star potential he had coming out of high school. Grant Loy returns for his 5th year of eligibility. TJ Finley is transferring in from LSU; he started against Auburn last season in Auburn’s 48-11 rout of LSU. Dematrius Davis comes in as a true freshman after setting numerous Texas high school state records. This Auburn QB room is maybe the deepest and most talented in several years. Nix, Finley, and Davis could all realistically start this fall. Let’s take a look at each of the four and predict how each will fair this season.
Starter: Bo Nix will enter the season as the starting quarterback. No fall camp competition rumors here. Nix will be a third year starter in the SEC, a rarity especially in these days of college football. The Auburn legacy failed to take the next step last season after taking home SEC Freshman of the Year honors in 2019. With QB gurus Bryan Harsin and Mike Bobo now mentoring Nix, I think he will take steps forward and become one of the top QBs in the conference in 2021. The pro style concepts Harsin and Bobo are implementing will fit Bo Nix’s abilities much better than Malzahn’s schemes. Nix’s deep ball accuracy has been the subject of much criticism over the last two years. A large reason for that inconsistency is the passing scheme Malzahn used. Bobo has long used the intermediate passing game (10-19 yard routes), and he has had a lot of success in the SEC. Footwork and pocket presence are the other weaknesses in Nix’s game. A lot of that is because of the poor offensive line play last season (he still showed flashes of this in 2019), most notably the Georgia game. Regardless of how the offensive line performs, Harsin and Bobo will make it a big emphasis for Bo to stay in the pocket until it truly breaks down. Couple that with better receiver play from a deeper receiver room and I predict Bo Nix will be a much quarterback in 2021. If Nix does not show any improvement (and Auburn loses games because of it), then I think Harsin will have a short leash on Nix.
QB2: LSU transfer TJ Finley is the second best quarterback in the room. No disrespect to Grant Loy and Dematrius Davis, but entering fall camp, TJ Finley is better than they are. Finley, for one, has started games in the SEC. Last season in 5 starts, Finley threw for 941 yards. He completed 80 of his 140 throws with 5 TDs and 5 INTs, 2 of which were against Auburn. Finley brings a lot of upside for Auburn. He was a 3 star recruit coming out of high school, and has a rocket for an arm. At 6-foot-6 inches and a rocket for an arm, Finley brings the intangibles you want to the QB position. Finley becomes Bo Nix’s first true backup QB in his time at Auburn. Finley will be ready to go anytime his number is, and it will be interesting to see when that will be.
QB3: Grant Loy is back. The former Bowling Green transfer will be a solid number 3 option for Auburn. While at Bowling Green, his completion percentage hovered between 56-56% before transferring to Auburn after the 2019 season. Barring injury, I don’t expect to see Loy much, if at all, this season.
QB4: True freshman Dematrius Davis is only QB4 on my list because I think he will redshirt this year. Davis has said all the right things publicly, like wanting to compete for the job, willing to learn, etc. I was a little surprised that he stuck with Auburn after to committing to Gus Mualzahn. When you look at Davis and his skillset, he looks like a Malzahn- type QB. Listed at 5’ 10.5”, 200 lbs, Davis was clocked at a 4.87 40 yard dash, and 4.38 shuttle run. Davis has great speed for a QB and is built like a running back. He has tons of potential, so it will be interesting to see what Bryan Harsin has planned for him with two QBs ahead of him and 4-star QB Holden Geriner coming in 2023.
Walk-ons: Auburn does have a pair of walk-ons that will fill out the depth chart. Sawyer Pate, the former 7A state champion for Thompson High School has upside, but expectations are very low. Trey Lindsey got some snaps in the spring game.
Bryan Harsin is going to sink or swim in year 1 thanks to his QB play. Can Bo Nix take the next step and live up to his 5- star billing? Will TJ Finley snatch the starting job from Nix? Will Dematrius Davis surprise everyone and start as a true freshman? As an Auburn fan I must say, I have not had as much confidence in Auburn’s QB coaches going in to 2021 than I have had in a long time. Harsin and Bobo have track records of success with QBs, and I think they can turn things around for Auburn at the most important position on the field.