Why Auburn football coach Hugh Freeze said QB Holden Geriner 'really, really stood out'
AUBURN — It looked like a two-horse race through the first half of spring practice for Auburn football.
Quarterbacks Robby Ashford and TJ Finley were going back and forth with the first and second groups. Coach Hugh Freeze said all along that each player, including his QBs, would get equal reps through A-Day on April 8, but signs were pointing toward Ashford or Finley leading the pack.
But then Freeze gave redshirt freshman Holden Geriner some of the highest praise he's given to any of his quarterbacks since arriving to the Plains.
SPRING PRACTICE:Holden Geriner with first Auburn football quarterback group, other spring practice observations
OTHER QUARTERBACKS:Auburn football quarterbacks: Where Robby Ashford, TJ Finley, Holden Geriner stand
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"I thought he really, really, really stood out all week with his improvement and his play," Freeze said of Geriner on Monday "Not that the others didn't improve also, but I thought he really — his grasp of what we were trying to do, he was impressive last week."
Geriner appeared in just one game last season − he completed two of three passes in a win over Missouri on Sept. 24 after Ashford, who would eventually come back in, went down with an injury.
But just because Geriner impressed last week, and received reps with the first group during a pace period at Auburn's 10th spring practice on Monday, doesn't mean the race is over.
In fact, it's just getting started.
"It's still a competition,” Freeze said. ”I think competition is good for everybody, and how you respond to it is critical. ... Like I've said, it's going to go into fall camp. And the offseason will play a role in leadership and how the players are responding and rallying around you. That is the most important position that we have, and so it's going to take time to evaluate it.
"But I did think they all took some steps forward."
Ashford has been dealing with some shoulder soreness, according to Freeze. He didn't throw Wednesday and was limited at Friday's scrimmage, but Freeze said the quarterback's performance Monday was the best practice he's seen him have since arriving to Auburn.
The praise from Freeze is relatively new. He has previously been brutally honest about his quarterbacks, even before spring practice began.
Freeze told reporters Jan. 27 that the QBs needed to "grow up and decide if they truly want to be a quarterback." He also said as recently as last week that he wished the players at the position were "further along."
He also said he had "no idea" who he'd name the starter if he was forced to do so.
"I struggle with that," Freeze said when asked about his honesty. "I really do. ... I want to be very truthful. I think we’re making improvement, but there was a ways to go. It’s our job as coaches to get them to be the best that they can be.
"So, I’ve been excited about them wanting to be coached and them accepting our coaching. I think we’ve had to do a better job of coaching some and they’ve had to do a better job of owning what’s on the field. That’s the way it is. They all have done some good things. They all have had some inconsistencies. And it’s our job to improve that."
Richard Silva is the Auburn athletics beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @rich_silva18.
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Why Auburn football coach Hugh Freeze said QB Holden Geriner stood out