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Auburn fall camp Day 4 practice observations: A closer look at the quarterbacks

AL.com logo AL.com 8/9/2022 Tom Green, al.com

Auburn had its first off day of fall camp Monday, but the Tigers were back at it Tuesday morning at the practice field for Day 4 of preseason practices.

Local media was granted another viewing period during the early portions of practice, lasting about half an hour in total. During this window, AL.com decided to focus solely on the quarterbacks to take a closer look at the position, as it was the first time this preseason media have been in attendance on a day when all four quarterbacks are together.

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Tuesday also kicked off what could be an increasingly important week for Auburn’s quarterbacks, as head coach Bryan Harsin said in the spring that he’d ideally like to narrow things down in the competition after the team’s first fall scrimmage. The Tigers are set to scrimmage Saturday evening at Jordan-Hare Stadium, meaning moving day could be looming in the race for QB1.

Again, these viewing windows are just a small glimpse into the overall picture, so take everything with a grain of salt. With that in mind, here are some observations from Tuesday’s open session:

— T.J. Finley received the first rep in every drill during the five periods the media was allowed to watch. The junior also looked the most crisp of Auburn’s quarterback candidates during passing periods. He capped Period 3, which focused on work with the tight ends, with a nice seam route to John Samuel Shenker — though he also started the period with a misfire to Shenker down the right sideline.

In Period 4, Finley connected on a corner route to Tar’Varish Dawson Jr., followed by a crossing route over the middle to Shedrick Jackson., then one to walk-on receiver Jake Kruse during the third rotation of that period. He then had two completions on deep posts to Dawson and LSU transfer Koy Moore. At the end of that period, Jackson dropped a pass on a shallow in-and-out, but Finley completed the next attempt to freshman Camden Brown.

— Zach Calzada was often the second quarterback in the rotation during these drills, though he and Oregon transfer Robby Ashford (who earned offensive Player of the Day honors Sunday) alternated positions in the order at times throughout the viewing period. Neither newcomer was as consistent with his passes as Finley was, at least during the viewing window.

Ashford had an overthrown ball on a corner to Moore during Period 4, and another one during Period 5 that sailed over Luke Deal on a post route and then an overthrow to walk-on Tommy Nesmith later in the period. He was also hurt by dropped passes at times, with Brown and Landen King both dropping a ball from Ashford during Periods 5 and 4.

Calzada overthrew a post to Ja’Varrius Johnson and had an incompletion to Brown, the latter of which prompted Harsin to shout, “You got to catch every ball.” There was another drop by Johnson on a pass from Calzada late in Period 5, and while the Texas A&M transfer didn’t seem to be as consistent Tuesday, he still made some noteworthy throws, zipping a deep ball over the middle to Moore at the end of Period 5 and another to freshman Omari Kelly on an in-and-out to close out Period 4.

— Freshman Holden Geriner was the fourth quarterback in the rotation throughout the viewing period. He had a couple high throws, including one that resulted in a nice leaping grab by King on a crossing route during Period 4.

— When media walked onto the field during Period 1, Auburn was running 11-on-11 drills. Here’s a complete look at the first-team unit:

QB: T.J. Finley

RB: Tank Bigsby

TE: John Samuel Shenker

WR/H: Tar’Varish Dawson Jr.

WR: Shedrick Jackson

WR: Malcolm Johnson Jr.

LT: Kilian Zierer

LG: Tate Johnson

C: Nick Brahms

RG: Kam Stutts

RT: Austin Troxell

— Calzada ran quarterback with the second team during these 11-on-11 drills, with Jarquez Hunter at running back, Tyler Fromm at tight end, Ja’Varrius Johnson in the slot and Koy Moore and Camden Brown out wide.

— During that period, Calzada completed all six of his pass attempts while moving the offense down the field. The first one he zipped to Johnson over the middle, followed by a completion to Hunter on an angle route out of the backfield. He connected with Moore in the flat after being flushed out of the pocket and rolling to the right. Calzada then hit Fromm for a quick strike to the right side, followed by a quick screen to Moore and then a swing pass to Hunter.

— During Period 4, quarterbacks worked with running backs, first on handoffs — both under center and out of shotgun — and then on tosses to the left and right. That was followed by angle routes to the backs out of shotgun.

— Freshman wide receiver Omari Kelly had the catch of the viewing window, making a one-handed grab on the sideline on a corner route that was thrown by Finley. King’s leaping catch on the crossing route from Geriner was probably the second-most impressive catch of the window.

— Tar’Varish Dawson Jr. was identified by offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau at the start of camp as probably the most improved young player on offense. Dawson’s stock continues to rise, as he was consistently the first wide receiver in the rotation during those passing drills and was paired with Finley throughout those periods.

Dawson was also recognized as the team’s Playmaker of the Day during Sunday’s practice.

— Just three days after Tank Bigsby did his post-practice interview while wearing a Def Leppard shirt and admitting he didn’t know who the band was, the first song that played over the speaker system during the viewing period was Def Leppard’s 1987 hit “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” A nice touch, to be sure.

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

©2022 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit al.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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