Fall camp has once again arrived for the Auburn Tigers, and the excitement surrounding the program is evident.
A new coach always brings renewed energy and purpose, and when the new coach has already made an impact like Hugh Freeze has, excitement overflows for the future of the program.
"Obviously it's a very exciting day for us to kick off the 2023 season," Freeze said. "I know spring practice is important and going through summer training is vital and recruiting is a priority but now it gets to a point where you have to put all those pieces together."
A big question surrounding the team is the status of star running back Jarquez Hunter who has experienced some off-field issues. Freeze addressed the situation.
"Matters related to team rules and procedures, they're handled internally and can not be discussed publicly," Freeze said.
Payton Thorne, a quarterback who transferred to Auburn from Michigan State, is expected to be a key factor in how successful Auburn is this season. Freeze elaborated on his relationship with Thorne.
"It's impossible for you to not visit with Payton because he demands it," Freeze said. "I love that about him... I feel very comfortable with who he is, his leadership, his desire and his preparation, his dedication and his football IQ."
The wide receiver room also has a lot of new faces and unanswered questions going into camp. Freeze gave his thoughts on the position, which he said needed an "overhaul."
"We needed to overhaul that room and improve it for sure," Freeze said. "Truthfully, our evaluation sample for them was so small for most of them because this system is so different than what they've played in. I do think we've improved that room in recruiting and I do think there are guys here that can be better than what they have shown.
Even with the season starting, Freeze explained how vital it is to keep up recruiting efforts.
"That's one of the reasons I hired Monty (Phillip Montgomery) so I can be very active in recruiting, Freeze said. "I think I've talked to most of the top 25 guys this week and obviously were still trying to carry that momentum into the fall. I feel good about the momentum we have right now and obviously, it's never over in this conference when you're recruiting and you've got to maintain the lines of communication and make sure they still feel the same way about Auburn a few months from now as they did this past weekend and some before that."
"There are some big decisions that are coming up soon that we're involved in and hopefully, a few of those go our way," he added.
Freeze mentioned the position that excites him the most and the one he is looking for the most improvement in during camp.
"I'm excited about our o-line," Freeze said. "I really think we've improved ourselves there and I don't know how much we closed the gap on that. I think we need to improve our mental toughness and our attention to detail in the secondary. I do think we have some talent there but there is some older talent and then there is some really good young talent and I don't think any have been stressed or strained enough to be where they need to be. I want to see them improve that aspect of it.
Freeze went into detail on the things that he is trying to emphasize to his players as camp gets started.
"The commitment it takes to win today," Freeze said. "It's really that simple to me. Do we have the mental and physical toughness to prove the commitment that we've declared that we have to win today?
Freeze and company have a lot to do before taking the field against the UMass Minutemen on September 2, but they will look to put their best forward in 2023.
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