5 things I think about Auburn football landing LSU transfer TJ Finley | Toppmeyer

Blake Toppmeyer

First-year Auburn football coach Bryan Harsin inherited a quarterback with 24 career starts in the SEC, but he wasn't content to enter the 2021 season with Gus Malzahn's leftovers.

Harsin bolstered AU's quarterback competition by earning a commitment Monday from TJ Finley, an LSU transfer with four years of eligibility remaining.

Finley started five games last season, when he completed 57.1% of his passes with five touchdowns and five interceptions.

Here's what I think of this addition:

TJ Finley is going to be a trendsetter

Thanks to the NCAA adjusting its transfer rules to allow first-time undergraduate transfers to play immediately at their new school, we’re seeing a hyperactive transfer market.

Quarterbacks, like Finley, who didn’t win a starting job in spring practice can enroll at a new school in the summer and start afresh in trying to win a starting job.

TOPPMEYER:LSU transfer TJ Finley makes sense for Auburn football — as a backup

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A remaining caveat is whether the SEC will change its intraconference transfer bylaws. As it stands, despite the NCAA’s rule adjustment, undergraduate players who transfer from one SEC school to another (like Finley) still need a waiver to gain immediate eligibility.

But SEC university leaders are expected to review that bylaw in the coming weeks and could alter it before the 2021 season to allow for immediate eligibility for intraconference transfers.

If that’s the case, I think we’ll see more quarterbacks in future years who pull Finley's maneuver of spending spring practice at one SEC school before shifting to a different SEC roster by the fall.

Of course, such movement comes with a challenge. If that player couldn’t win the starting job at School A, is it going to go differently at School B, especially after not participating in spring practice at his new school?

This is a good move for Auburn

Regardless of whether Finley becomes the starter – I consider him a long shot to overthrow incumbent Bo Nix – this is a good move for Auburn.

A former five-star recruit, Nix started every game the past two seasons. Although Nix must improve his consistency for Auburn to accelerate in 2021, Harsin inherited a decent situation atop the quarterback depth chart given Nix's experience.

Behind Nix, though, Auburn faced question marks.

Grant Loy started eight games at Bowling Green, but he had modest success in that role, and he played sparingly last year in his first season at AU. Four-star freshman Dematrius Davis is an intriguing dual-threat option for the future, but he probably isn't ready for the reins this year.

Finley gives Auburn another option with SEC starting experience. If Nix falters or gets injured, this pickup will prove especially valuable.

Bryan Harsin must keep Dematrius Davis and Holden Geriner on board

Anytime you add a transfer quarterback, you risk unsettling the guys currently on the depth chart.

Harsin is wise to improve his quarterback depth. But now he must reassure Davis and Geriner, a four-star quarterback committed to Auburn’s 2022 recruiting class, that Finley’s addition isn’t cause to question their standing.

Loy is a senior who will depart after this season. It’s not unreasonable to think Nix could leave for the NFL after the 2021 season, if he likes the feedback he receives from NFL personnel. If that’s the case, Auburn’s quarterback job would be up for grabs in 2022, and a three-headed competition featuring Finley, Davis and Geriner would help the Tigers withstand that turnover.

The transfer portal giveth

If used well, the transfer portal and the one-time transfer exception rule offer advantages that first-year coaches of yesteryear did not have available ahead of Year 1 of their tenures.

LSU quarterback TJ Finley (11) drops back to pass against  Auburn on Oct. 31, 2020, at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Finley marks Harsin's seventh transfer pickup, and some of those additions have instant-impact potential.

Transfer defensive lineman Marcus Harris led Kansas in tackles for loss last season, while another defensive line pickup, Eku Leota, led Northwestern in sacks. Cornerback addition Dreshun Miller was a starter for West Virginia.

Bo Nix should be motivated by this

The addition of a quarterback with SEC starting experience should be an extra source of motivation for Nix. If that’s the case, all the better for Auburn.

Nix remains the favorite for the starting job. He played well on A-Day and earned high marks from Harsin throughout the spring. Auburn’s returners are familiar with him. But Finley’s addition should tell Nix that he can take nothing for granted.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.