Auburn football coach Bryan Harsin says competition will help quarterbacks

Josh Vitale
Montgomery Advertiser

It's been a long time since Bo Nix last faced any legitimate competition in the Auburn football quarterback room.

He was named the starter over Joey Gatewood on Aug. 20, 2019 – 11 days before the start of his true freshman season. He has held a firm grip on the job ever since.

Gatewood left the program midway through that season. Since then, the only scholarship quarterbacks behind Nix on the depth chart have been 26-year-old former minor league baseball player Cord Sandberg, three-star 2020 signee Chayil Garnett, Bowling Green transfer Grant Loy and four-star 2021 signee Dematrius Davis, a true freshman who just completed his first spring.

That's why Monday's addition of LSU transfer TJ Finley could prove so significant.

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"When you got people that are driving you to do that in that position or on this team, that's going to help you," coach Bryan Harsin said before an alumni event Monday at Auburn Arena. "That's something that good teams have – they have competition. They have rooms where guys are pushing each other."

Finley is probably the first player since Gatewood who can truly provide that for Nix. Unlike Sandberg, Garnett (both of whom have transferred), Loy and Davis, he has experience leading an SEC offense. The former three-star recruit started five games at LSU last season, completing 57.1% of his passes for 941 yards (6.7 per attempt), five touchdowns and five interceptions.

Nix's surface numbers last season – 59.9% completion for 2,415 yards (6.8 per attempt), 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions – were slightly better. But he was a second-year starter. Finley was a true freshman thrown into the fire after a midseason injury at the position. And some of his advanced numbers – such as passing accuracy on clean dropbacks (64%) – were better than Nix's (50.9%), according to SEC StatCat.

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Finley hasn't signed with Auburn yet, so Harsin couldn't talk specifically about him Monday. But he did outline what he was looking for from the team's quarterbacks this summer.

"Guys competing," Harsin said. "The quarterback room is about toughness. 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.

"Competition keeps you focused. Competition gets you up and out of bed in the morning and drives you towards improvement. And so there's nothing wrong with that. And I think that's something I hope our players understand."

Josh Vitale is the Auburn beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoshVitale. To reach him by email, click here.