The Auburn Tigers will be getting a new face in the locker room next season and much-needed depth quarterback as former LSU signal-caller TJ Finley decided to leave the Tigers of the Bayou and join the Tigers of the Plains.
Finley is hoping to cash in on a potential rule change that would allow intra-conference transfers to play immediately.
He was also being pursued by Alabama, Houston, and Penn State. Ultimately, he chose Auburn because he felt like he would have a chance to compete for a starting job and wouldn’t just be used for depth.
As a true freshman, Finley played in six games at LSU with five starts. During those games, he completed 80 passes out of 140 attempts for 941 yards. Finley had an even number of passing touchdowns and interceptions, with five apiece. Finley also added 34 yards rushing and one touchdown.
He led the Tigers to two wins as a starter, beating Arkansas 27-24 and South Carolina 52-24.
Finley was the starter in LSU’s 48-11 loss to Auburn last season and had a rough outing, throwing for only 143 yards on 13 of 25 passing, with two interceptions.
Finley, who has four years of eligibility remaining, has made it clear that he plans to take on incumbent starter Bo Nix for playing time in 2021.
“The quarterback room is about toughness,” said first-year Auburn coach Bryan Harsin to reporters, according to 24/7 Sports. “It’s about preparation. It’s about decision-making. It’s about accuracy. But these guys, you want to have the ultimate competitors in that room. And really, it starts with themselves. That’s the one thing about that position is that one guy that’s on the field ... that’s playing that position.”
Nix has started for Auburn for the past two seasons. As a passer, he has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for roughly 2,500 yards with 16 touchdowns his freshman year and 12 touchdowns last season. Nix added 388 rushing yards in 2020 and 313 his freshman year along with seven rushing touchdowns in each season.
Although Nix has led the Tigers to 9-4 and 6-5 finishes the past two seasons, the last coming during a difficult pandemic year, his play has been criticized as uneven.
Joining Nix and Finley in the quarterback room is previous graduate transfer Grant Loy, who chose to return for one final season at Auburn. Loy transferred to the Tigers from Bowling Green where he started in 2019 and passed for over 1,000 yards.
Loy saw limited action for the Tigers, primarily in special teams situations, with two pass attempts last season. Loy didn’t do much to instill confidence in the Tigers’s depth at quarterback with his spring game performance. He only connected on 4 of 12 passes for 29 yards. With Finley entering the picture, Loy will need to fight to keep any chance of a backup role.
The final scholarship quarterback on Auburn’s roster is Dematrius Davis, who hails from North Shore High School in Houston, Texas.
In his senior year Davis passed for 3,553 yards and 38 touchdowns with 875 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns. He led North Shore to two state championships his sophomore and junior year, adding a deep playoff run his senior year.
Davis comes into Auburn ranked the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the nation. While he has not seen the college field, both coaches and fans are excited to see what his potential holds.
Returning to Auburn’s quarterback room, but not on scholarship, are walk-on quarterbacks Sawyer Pate and Trey Lindsey.
Pate was a three-star commit recruit who came to the Tigers as a preferred walk-on. While Pate hasn’t seen any on-field action so far, he was a successful quarterback at Thompson High School, where he threw for 3,100 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior.
Lindsey, likewise, hasn’t seen any collegiate action, but in his senior year he threw for 2,253 yards and 24 TDs. Both players have remained committed to Auburn and will be hoping for the opportunity to make an impact in 2021.
Nix seemed to have the starting spot secured for his junior year, but with Finley moving into the mix many are wondering if his job is in jeopardy, or if the competition will only make him work even harder.
Regardless, Finley certainly will add more depth into the locker room, although he probably has no interest in merely providing depth.
Whatever Finely may feel, he will still need the intra-conference rule to pass to even hope of playing in 2021. The rule requires players to sit out one year. Until then, Finley will be focusing on moving to the Plains and working with Harsin and offensive coordinator Mike Bob.