5 offensive transfers that could make the biggest impacts for Auburn football in 2023
AUBURN — Nearly half of Auburn football's roster will be comprised of players coach Hugh Freeze has brought in this offseason. Of that bunch, 20 have come from the portal, with 11 of those transfers being on the offensive side of the ball.
The Tigers added plenty of experience with their additions, as the majority of their recent acquisitions have one or two years of eligibility remaining. This builds a bridge between now and when Freeze's future recruiting classes are on campus and ready to play.
Here are five offensive transfers that should make the biggest impact for Auburn in 2023.
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QB Payton Thorne (Michigan State)
Quarterbacks typically get the most attention, and rightfully so.
Freeze wasn't shy in admitting he was going to add a transfer QB this offseason. From a numbers standpoint, the Tigers only had three quarterbacks on scholarship when TJ Finley announced earlier this month he'd be entering the portal.
Auburn landed on Thorne, who comes to the Tigers after four seasons at Michigan State. His best season came in 2021 when he led the Spartans to an 11-2 record, a win in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl versus Pittsburgh, and completed 60.4% of his passes for 3,232 yards and 27 touchdowns. That yardage would rank second in AU history for QBs in a single season, behind only Dameyune Craig's 1997 campaign. Twenty-seven passing TDs would also be second all-time, only topped by Cam Newton's 30 in 2010.
LT Dillon Wade (Tulsa)
Auburn added plenty of offensive weapons this season, but none of it would matter if the Tigers didn't address the offensive line issues that've plagued them since the last few years of the Gus Malzahn era. Including freshmen and additions from junior college, Freeze added nine offensive linemen this offseason. The Tigers added nine players on the O-line in the 2020, 2021 and 2022 recruiting cycles combined.
Tabbing the most impactful transfer on the offensive line is difficult, but Dillon Wade went through spring practice as the starting left tackle and is expected to keep that position through Week 1. Jeremiah Wright may be the only returning starter on the line from a season ago, as Wade (left tackle), Avery Jones (center) and Gunner Britton (right tackle) look locked into place. Jaden Muskrat, who's also coming from Tulsa along with Wade, could slot into a starting role at guard, too.
WR Jyaire Shorter (North Texas)
The Tigers added four transfer WRs this offseason in Caleb Burton (Ohio State), Shane Hooks (Jackson State), Nick Mardner (Cincinnati) and Jyaire Shorter (North Texas). Hooks, Mardner and Shorter should all compete for snaps on the outside, but Shorter's big-play ability could set him apart.
Shorter only caught 23 passes for the Mean Green in 2022, but those receptions went for 628 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 27.3 yards per reception led FBS and gives Auburn a proven down-the-field threat.
TE Rivaldo Fairweather (Florida International)
Freeze likes receivers with large catch radiuses. That's evident in his previous recruiting − AJ Brown, DK Metcalf and Laquon Treadwell at Ole Miss − and he said as much back in February: "If you follow my track record, I believe in it," Freeze said. "... You're not going to create tremendous separation in this league when they're in man-to-man situations all the time."
But how about some length at tight end? Rivaldo Fairweather is listed at 6-foot-4 and brings his own big-play ability to the Plains. He caught 28 passes for 426 yards and three TDs at FIU last season and is hoping to become the next tight end Freeze sends to the NFL, joining the likes of Evan Engram and Dawson Knox.
RB Brian Battie (South Florida)
South Florida transfer Brian Battie likely won't be Auburn's lead back in 2023, but that doesn't mean his impact won't be felt both on offense and on special teams. Aside from rushing for over 1,100 yards last season, Battie was also tabbed as an All-American kick returner the year prior.
His speed and elusiveness give Auburn's offense a change-of-pace back, and if he can steal a touchdown or two as a returner, the Tigers hit a home run bringing him in.
Richard Silva is the Auburn athletics beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @rich_silva18.
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Auburn football: 5 offensive transfers that could make biggest impacts