TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Auburn football has never been as bad as Bryan Harsin made the Tigers look. Cadillac Williams showed us that.
Auburn isn’t nearly as talented as it should be, either. Hugh Freeze could show us that if he becomes AU’s next manager.
No. 7 Alabama added Auburn 49-27 in Saturday’s Iron Bowl, and it came as no surprise as the Crimson Tide (10-2, 6-2 SEC) is armed with more talent than their rival. Harsin allowed that. He’s lost more talent than he’s gained on the transfer portal, and he’s failed as a recruiter.
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Take a close look at Auburn’s No. 39 position in the 247Sports Composite Recruitment Leaderboard because if Freeze takes the reins of this program, Auburn (5-7, 2-6) will get a recruitment boost. Freeze is made for the NIL era, and he should be comfortable snuggling up with Auburn’s passionate boosters.
Freeze has emerged as the obvious front-runner for Auburn’s opening after Lane Kiffin decided to stay with Ole Miss. Freeze confirmed his interest in Auburn after Liberty’s regular season finale.
Either Kiffin or Freeze would have been a significant coaching upgrade over Harsin, who Auburn fired on October 31, but Freeze’s personality is better suited to what Auburn craves. He’d do the happy hand and politics that Auburn likes, and he’d dig into AU culture in a way Harsin never could — or Kiffin, for that matter. Freeze’s southern charm would be a hit on the Plains, and Auburn also needs his ability to develop quarterbacks.
However, Freeze shouldn’t wait for his recruitment classes to take shape to get this list going.
When Freeze becomes Auburn’s coach, his first task is clear: he must go on a buy-one-one shopping spree in the transfer portal, because the product he would inherit just isn’t enough.
Alabama’s wide receivers consistently sliced through Auburn’s secondary this Iron Bowl, while Bryce Young made a final arc at Bryant-Denny Stadium with a brilliant display of 391 yards total offense. Young enjoyed plenty of pocket time as Auburn’s front didn’t generate any pressure.
I’m not thrilled with Alabama’s candidacy for the college football playoffs, even after the losses to Clemson and Ohio State, but the Crimson Tide’s 516-yard offensive streak against Auburn gave the selection committee at least something to think about.
As Auburn’s next coach scours the portal for talent, he must make a conscious effort to stockpile offensive linemen. Despite starting a veteran offensive line, Auburn’s frontline hasn’t been consistently enough dominating their opponent this season.
Oh, and I committed a journalistic sin by burying the lede: Auburn needs a quarterback upgrade. Auburn’s offense is one-dimensional with Robby Ashford at the wheel.
Quarterbacks languished under Harsin. They thrive under Freeze.
Auburn fans know that, and not just from his tenure as Ole Miss coach.
At Liberty, Freeze Malik converted Willis into an NFL third-round draft pick after Willis failed to win Auburn’s starting job in two seasons for Gus Malzahn.
Ashford is an excellent runner – he weaved through Alabama’s defense with a shot on goal in the first quarter that briefly gave Auburn the lead – and he threw a perfectly thrown touchdown pass to Ja’Varrius Johnson.
But he’s also piled on the incompletes like he did during his redshirt freshman season. Playing for Freeze would do Ashford well, but Auburn needs to add more options to its offseason quarterback competition.
Look to LSU for a guide to Auburn’s path forward.
Tigers freshman coach Brian Kelly inherited some talent but not enough depth, and he plundered the portal. Among his transfers, he added quarterback Jayden Daniels, who turned LSU’s offense as the Tigers shocked Alabama and won the SEC West.
Seeing Freeze on the Auburn touchline is not a result Nick Saban should want. As coach of Ole Miss, Freeze twice batted Saban and led the Rebels to two New Year’s Six Bowl appearances.
Freeze resigned in 2017 while juggling a personal scandal in one hand and a professional one in the other, but he’s never been accused of not knowing how to work out. In fact, his offensive approach at Ole Miss proved so effective that he inspired Saban to modernize Alabama’s freeze-style offense.
Freeze is dying for another opportunity with the SEC, and he’s always been a logical option for Auburn.
With Auburn’s NIL collective and the transfer portal at Freeze’s fingertips, he could reshape the Tigers roster and ensure the Iron Bowl talent gap isn’t as one-sided as it seemed on Saturday.
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