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12/5/22 Auburn Articles


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Auburn Transfer Portal Live Tracker

Christian Clemente
9–12 minutes


The new era of college football is here. Like it or not, the transfer portal is a huge part of college football in 2022, and for Auburn specifically, it should prove to be beneficial.

While players have already begun to announce their intent to enter the transfer portal over the past couple of weeks, unless a coaching change occurred at their school, Monday was the first opportunity for most players to actually enter the transfer portal. It's the beginning of a 45-day window for players to transfer, with the only other transfer window coming after spring practice from May 1-15.

For Auburn and new head coach Hugh Freeze, which currently only has 11 high school commits and is projected to lose a lot of upperclassmen, it could be a very, very large portal class. Auburn brought in nine transfers last year. That number could easily double in the 2023 cycle.

Auburn Undercover is tracking all of the updates for Auburn's departures, Auburn's additions and potential Auburn targets. Note: The names we're tracking do not directly reflect Auburn's board. 


Transferring out: None

Looking to add: 0-1

Names we're tracking: Nick Evers (Oklahoma), Hudson Card (Texas)

While not in the transfer portal yet, T.J. Finley appears to be on his way out. That leaves Auburn with Robby Ashford, Zach Calzada and Holden Geriner, along with a commitment from 3-star Miami Central (Fla.) quarterback Keyone Jenkins, should Freeze take him.

Even if Freeze opts to keep Jenkins in the class, taking a quarterback out of the portal is not out of the question for Auburn. Freeze has shown an interest in Ashford and his skillset, but bolstering up the room is certainly a possibility. 

Two early intriguing names to enter are Evers and Card, who were highly-rated coming out of high school with Card playing some for Texas and Evers departing after just one year at Oklahoma.

Whether or not Auburn looks to go big game hunting for a quarterback or simply take depth remains to be seen.

Running Back

Transferring out: None

Looking to add: 0-1

Names we're tracking: Kavosiey Smoke (Kentucky), Justin Williams-Thomas (Tennessee)

With a commitment from Jeremiah Cobb, what Auburn does at running back in the portal will hinge on Tank Bigsby and his draft status.

If he departs, expect Auburn to go get an experienced back to pair with Jarquez Hunter and the young duo of Damari Alston and Cobb. Should Bigsby stay, Auburn may not take a transfer or will take a young one for the future.

Smoke fits the bill as an experienced back that also happens to be from Alabama. Williams-Thomas was an Auburn target in the 2022 class before signing with the Vols.

Wide Receiver

Transferring out: JJ Evans

Looking to add: 1-2

Names we're tracking: Traeshon Holden (Alabama), Grant DuBose (Charlotte), Theo Wease (Oklahoma), RaRa Thomas (Mississippi State), E.J. Williams (Clemson)

Landen King has already withdrawn his name from the transfer portal (though a move back to tight end is likely in the cards), sources have told Auburn Undercover that Tar'Varish Dawson will do the same and Ze'Vian Capers is also expected to return.

So, the three pass catchers that were planning to leave are now back.

Still, don't be shocked to see Auburn go after a big receiver or two in the portal. The keyword being "big." Auburn will look to go out and get a certified stud receiver, who's large enough to move outside and play outside.

Holden, DuBose, Wease, Williams and Thomas are just a few of the early names that have already announced their intent to enter the portal and could be intriguing targets.

Tight End

Transferring out: None

Looking to add: 0-1

Names we're tracking: Kyle Morlock (Shorter)

After a lengthy Auburn career, John Samuel Shenker has run out of eligibility and will not be on Auburn's roster next year. Tyler Fromm, Luke Deal and Brandon Frazier all project to return, but as upperclassmen and little pass-catching experience. Micah Riley-Ducker will be a redshirt freshman after playing a few snaps in 2022.

Getting immediate pass-catching help and/or building up the future of the room will likely happen here.

Morlock was offered by Auburn's interim staff and was the top D-II tight end in the country at Shorter in Georgia. 

Offensive Tackle

Transferring out: None

Looking to add: 2-3

Names we're tracking: Damieon George (Alabama), Gunner Britton (Western Kentucky), Ajani Cornelius (Rhode Island)

Come one, come all. Auburn will NEED to add at least two transfer offensive tackles to be able to step in and start right away.

Luckily for Auburn, the depth chart is so thin that the players can almost essentially be guaranteed starting spots. There is an immediate need at offensive tackle, and transfers know it. Auburn should have a strong opportunity to land transfer portal offensive tackles.

A few of the early names to look at are George, Britton and Cornelius. Both George and Cornelius could project at guard or tackle.

Interior Offensive Linemen

Transferring out: Keiondre Jones

Looking to add: 2-3

Names we're tracking: Jake Renfro (Cincinnati), Javion Cohen (Alabama)

Again, expect Auburn to go into the portal heavily for interior offensive linemen, too. A center will be needed and a guard or two could be required as well. 

Jeremiah Wright projects to slot into a starting spot and Kameron Stutts is expected to return for a fifth year, while Tate Johnson is also returning, but Auburn will need more here. Auburn needs more experience and also more depth at the spot. Convincing Jones to stay, who left that possibility open, would be a good start.

Renfro has experience as Cincinnati's starting center, though staying in the midwest and potentially following Luke Fickell to Wisconsin seems likely here. Cohen is a name Auburn fans are all too familiar with, but he has a lot of starting experience from his time at Alabama.

Defensive Line

Transferring out: Zykeivous Walker

Looking to add: 2-3

Names we're tracking: Tunmise Adeleye (Texas A&M)

Auburn is actually set to be a little thin along the defensive line next year, making it another big transfer portal spot. The line of scrimmage as a whole, really, will be an emphasis for the new staff.

In terms of defensive tackles and defensive ends, two or three is the estimate now but that may even be conservative depending on how the high school class works out.

Edge Rusher

Transferring out: None

Looking to add: 2-3

Names we're tracking: Ty French (Gardner-Webb), Bradyn Swinson (Oregon)

With Derick Hall, Eku Leota and Marcus Bragg on the way out, the edge spot will be another huge emphasis. Depending on Auburn's defensive coordinator hire this could end up being labeled differently, but the point is, Auburn needs guys to come off the end and attack the quarterback.

Hall had a long, successful Auburn career while Leota and Bragg were productive after transferring in. With just Dylan Brooks returning, Auburn can sell immediate playing time and the opportunity to replace a future NFL guy or two.

Transferring up from the FCS ranks, French had a monster 2022 season with 68 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Originally from Georgia, Swinson hasn't done a ton at Oregon, but Auburn will need depth, too.


Transferring out: None

Looking to add: 1-2

Names we're tracking: DaSan McCullough (Indiana)

Owen Pappoe has been a leader in Auburn's linebacker room for four years now and appears ready to move on to the next level. And Cam Riley, Wesley Steiner and Desmond Tisdol have already become upperclassmen with a shortage of eligibility left.

Flipping from Alabama, Robert Woodyard was Auburn's highest-rated commit in the Class of 2022 and could step into a bigger role as a mike linebacker next year. But Auburn needs to potentially bring in a starter and some depth here, especially with no high school linebackers committed in the class yet.


Transferring out: A.D. Diamond

Looking to add: 1-2

Names we're tracking: Gavin Holmes (Wake Forest), Brian George (Texas A&M)

A lot of Auburn's secondary at both cornerback and safety will be determined by the choices of DJ James, Jaylin Simpson, Nehemiah Pritchett and Zion Puckett back at safety. Both James and Pritchett accepted Senior Bowl invites, but still have eligibility remaining and could, in theory, return. Keionte Scott had an impressive year too and could look to leave for the NFL.

Whatever happens, expect Auburn to get at least one transfer cornerback for depth and, if needed, could pick up more than that to bolster next year's roster.


Transferring out: None


Looking to add: 0-1

Names we're tracking: 

It's worth noting that Holmes could play safety should Auburn get him. He was high school teammates with current Auburn safety Donovan Kaufman and knows Auburn wide receiver Koy Moore, too. 

Safety is a spot that, even if Puckett returns, could bring in a transfer. Part of it will depend on where Auburn's new staff projects Austin Ausberry to play and the development of Cayden Bridges and Caleb Wooden.

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Auburn with a huge need on the OL with the transfer portal opening on Monday

Jason Caldwell
4–5 minutes


AUBURN, Alabama—New Auburn football coach Hugh Freeze knows the issues for the Tigers after taking over the program following the early firing of Bryan Harsin that finished with Cadillac Williams coaching the final four games of the 2022 regular season. In the last two years Auburn won just 11 games and had back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1998-99.

With need areas on both lines of scrimmage and several other positions, Freeze mentioned in his opening press conference the need to use the transfer portal heavy in year one.

“I think year one, the portal will be a big priority,” Freeze said. “Again, this is without me talking to recruiting yet to kind of find out where we are with the high school recruits. I do believe in building with high school kids and filling in with the portal. Can we do that in year one? I’m not sure yet so I would anticipate it being heavier toward the portal.”

Much of the reason for that was the lack of recruiting and development on the offensive line. Depending on transfers and sixth-year seniors to hold things together this past season, Auburn now finds itself in serious trouble with the losses of seniors Austin Troxell, Alec Jackson, Brandon Council, Kilian Zierer and Brenden Coffey along with junior Keiondre Jones announcing his intentions to enter the transfer portal.

While there’s a belief that Jones could still return to the Tigers, that still leaves just five players with experience on the line with seniors Jalil Irvin and Kam Stutts expected to return for a fifth year and Tate Johnson coming back after playing in four games this season before an injury ended his year. The other one is Jeremiah Wright, who played defense his first season and sat out in 2021 following a knee injury.

That might not be a huge deal in some years or for some programs, but when you throw in the lack of recruiting for Auburn from the high school ranks over the last four years it becomes a huge issue for the 2023 season.

Currently, Auburn has two commitments for this year’s class from 4-stars Clay Wedin and Bradyn Joiner. A year ago the only player the Tigers signed on the offensive line was 4-star Eston Harris, Jr. The previous signing class the offensive line consisted of just two guys, Colby Smith and Garner Langlo.

Going back to 2020, Auburn signed only three linemen from high school. That year, the Tigers brought in Avery Jernigan, Tate Johnson and Wright. Going into his fourth season at Auburn, Wright has played offensive line just one year after working his way into the rotation this past season.

A year earlier, Auburn brought in Jones, Justin Osborne and Kamaar Bell in the 2019 class. Neither Osborne nor Bell played for the Tigers before transferring out of the program.

Even with their signings, Auburn signed a not so grand total of nine offensive linemen in the last four years with Smith the only true tackle of the bunch.

Meanwhile, during that same stretch, Georgia signed 17 high school offensive linemen and Alabama signed 16. The two best and most consistent programs in the country on the field have also dedicated a big portion of their rosters to signing and developing offensive linemen.

That’s something that Auburn will likely do under Freeze with the Tigers expected to sign at least three from high school this year, but the portal is going to need to be a big priority, especially at tackle.

With no experience at the position and only one scholarship tackle, the Tigers need at least two true tackles that can come in and compete for a starting job and maybe three. It’s far from ideal, but that’s the hand that Freeze has been dealt this first year.


The good news is that nobody in the country will have a sales pitch like Auburn when the portal officially opens on Monday. If you’re an offensive tackle and want to play, then this is the program for you.

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Ole Miss offensive line coach Jake Thornton tells players he's heading to Auburn

David Johnson
3–4 minutes

  11488236.JPG?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Offensive line coach Jake Thornton (Photo: OMA)

Offensive line coach Jake Thornton told his Ole Miss players Sunday afternoon that he is taking the same position at Auburn, according to sources. Thornton communicated with his players, we are told, that he just felt it was time for a change. He did not know if he would continue to coach the Rebels through their Dec. 28, appearance in the Tax Act Texas Bowl versus Texas Tech at NRG Stadium in Houston, he allegedly told his players.

Thornton spent two seasons as Lane Kiffin's offensive line coach after taking over for Randy Clements, who was terminated following spring practices in 2021.

Thornton will be joining newly-hired head coach Hugh Freeze's staff at Auburn.


From Ole Miss biography


Thornton came to Ole Miss after spending the 2020 season as the run game coordinator and offensive line coach at Gardner-Webb. Thornton joined the Gardner-Webb staff after two seasons in the same role at FCS Tennessee Tech. There, he helped the Golden Eagles to one of the top turnarounds in the subdivision nationally in 2019.

Thornton’s offensive line cleared a path for 4,501 offensive yards in 2019 and protected one of the OVC’s most productive quarterbacks in Bailey Fisher. Guard Trevor Stephens earned Freshman All-America honors from Phil Steele following a season that saw him start 11 games. Sophomore guard Mike Rhoades was a Second Team All-OVC choice following the season.

The offensive yardage produced by the Golden Eagles in 2019 marked the second-highest total in program history for a single season.

Thornton’s line helped Fisher earn 2018 OVC Freshman of the Year honors at quarterback and a spot on the 2018 Jerry Rice Award Watch List as a finalist.

Prior to joining the staff at Tennessee Tech, Thornton served as an offensive line graduate assistant on the 2017 National Championship staff at Alabama. That offensive line featured future NFL Draft picks Jonah Williams (1st round, 2019) and Ross Pierschbacher (5th round, 2019) as well as Second Team All-SEC selection Bradley Bozeman (2017).

The Crimson Tide defeated five top-20 teams en route to a 13-1 record and 17th national title.

Thornton started his coaching career in 2016 as offensive quality control coach and assistant offensive line coach at his alma mater, Western Carolina. That season the Catamounts produced 4,252 yards of total offense and saw quarterback Tyrie Adams earn SoCon Freshman of the Year honors.

After beginning his college playing career at Division II national stalwart Carson-Newman, Thornton transferred to Western Carolina in 2012. He began a string of 33 straight starts in 2013 and helped the Catamounts to consecutive seven-win seasons and second-place finishes in the Southern Conference.


Thornton was named First Team All-SoCon in 2014 and Second Team All-SoCon in 2015.

Thornton’s grandfather, Billy Shaw, played guard for the Buffalo Bills and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Class of 1999). Shaw also starred at Georgia Tech prior to embarking on his pro career.

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Snap Reaction: Potential Names for Tennessee Offensive Coordinator Vacancy

Matt Ray
4–5 minutes

Alex Golesh is headed to be USF’s new Head Coach, and Josh Heupel is now tasked with replacing his first coordinator since arriving on Rocky Top. The news regarding Golesh just broke moments ago, so we are taking the time to make a quick reaction hot board based on individuals we believe, in our opinion, could be potential candidates. 

Joey Halzle

This would be the quick, simple hire for Heupel, and it would certainly make plenty of sense. Halzle has been with Heupel for essentially the entirety of his coaching career, he knows the ins and outs of the Vols offense, and it makes sense for him to coach quarterbacks and serve as OC as well. Halzle is responsible for bring in Nico Iamaleava, who is tabbed as being the future of Tennessee's offense, so it is also likely Halzle wants to stick around to coach the most physically gifted signal-caller he has ever recruited. Off initial gut, one would have to almost think Halzle would be the betting favorite. 

Anthony Tucker, Utah State

Tucker, who spent time with Heupel at UCF, serving as his passing game coordinator, co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach would make a lot of sense as well. He knows the offense, is another rising star, and he has been successful as an OC since making the moving to Utah State. Recruiting at this level would be a key question, but one that all of Heupel’s inaugural staff minus Rodney Garner had to answer.

Brian Hartline, Ohio State

Speaking of rising stars, there isn't a bigger name in those ranks than Brian Hartline. Hartline's name had been mentioned for the Cincinatti job at one point, but we do not believe that got too far down the line. Hartline is currently the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator in Columbus and makes 950k. At worst, Tennessee makes him say no and gets him a raise. At best, you get an elite recruiter, who is another future star in the business and has been a thorn in your side on the recruiting trail. This is just more of a personal thought on who I would call, and I am sure it is a name that has gotten plenty of thoughts across the country. There are no known connections in this one, but there is plenty of intrigue with him. 

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Chip Long

Long was at Georgia Tech until new Head Coach Brent Key relieved him of his duties shortly after being hired. Still, Long seemed to have more success as the OC after Geoff Collins was fired this season. He has a strong history as a tight ends coach, so he could fill the void left behind by Golesh in that phase, but that would certainly not be the deciding factor. As Tennessee could bring in anyone on this list and make a run at Long as tight ends coach if they wanted. He is a guy that it would be easy to see Josh Heupel vetting. 

Phil Longo, North Carolina

Longo's name has been mentioned for the Auburn and Texas A&M offensive coordinator, and it is easy to see why, as he has not disappointed since taking over at North Carolina in 2019. Now, Auburn makes a lot of sense, as Longo and Freeze worked together in the same capacity at Ole Miss. Still, the Tigers have a clear rebuild in front of them, and it is possible the 54 year old Longo is looking for a quick stepping stone to make a run at being a head coach in some capacity. If that is the case, then him showing interest in the Tennessee job would make some sense. Again, these are all early speculations, but there is plenty to like about Longo so far. 

Jeff Lebby, Oklahoma

Lebby left Lane Kiffin last off-season to return to his alma mater, Oklahoma, to call plays for first-year Head Coach Brent Venables. It would probably be hard to pull Lebby out of Oklahoma, and Tennessee might not want to spend the money, but the Sooners offense struggled this past season and appears to be a major work in progress. For Lebby, who is viewed as a rising star as well, a reunion with Josh Heupel could certainly get him back on track. Now, there has to be some question of if there is strain around this relationship as Lebby left Heupel to go call plays for Kiffin, but it would also be foolish to rule this out. Lebby spent two years with Heupel at UCF, including serving as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in 2019.

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all of the articles are about recruiting and the portal so go check out the mighty Zeek and the recruiting board.

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