Ranking Hugh Freeze's transfer portal additions for Auburn football in 2023
AUBURN — The first window to enter the transfer portal has closed, the deadline to enroll in courses and be eligible for spring practice with the Tigers has passed and Auburn football coach Hugh Freeze has brought in 12 players from the portal.
Of the dozen players who've been added, six are on the offensive side, including two tackles (Gunner Britton and Dillon Wade), an interior lineman (Avery Jones), a wide receiver (Nick Mardner), a tight end (Rivaldo Fairweather) and a running back (Brian Battie). Defensively, three defensive linemen (Lawrence Johnson, Mosiah Nasili-Kite and Justin Rogers), two linebackers (Austin Keys and DeMario Tolan) and an edge (Elijah McAllister) have been ushered in.
There will be a second window open from May 1-15 for players to enter the portal, but as the dust settles from the first wave and spring practice approaches, this group seems to be the initial haul for Freeze.
Here's a ranking of the additions so far, from No. 12 to No. 1.
12. WR Nick Mardner
There wasn't a single pass-catcher on Auburn's roster last season that registered over 500 receiving yards, so the door is open for someone like Mardner to come in and establish themselves as a key playmaker. His 6-foot-6 frame and familiarity with position coach Marcus Davis should help, but there's competition with younger players like Cambden Brown, Jay Fair and Omari Kelly.
11. DL Lawrence Johnson
Listed at 6-3, 310 pounds, Johnson arrives to the Plains with five years of experience at Purdue. He should be able to be a rotational piece for the Tigers and allow Freeze and new defensive coordinator Ron Roberts to have a constant cycle of linemen in and out of the game.
10. DL Mosiah Nasili-Kite
Similar to Johnson, Nasili-Kite becomes another cog in the system that is Auburn's defensive line. He racked up 80 total tackles, nine sacks, two pass deflections and a forced fumble in his three seasons at Maryland.
9. Edge Elijah McAllister
Although his numbers at Vanderbilt weren't eye-popping, McAllister gives Auburn a veteran at edge after losing Derick Hall, Eku Leota and Colby Wooden to the NFL. McAllister was with the Commodores for five seasons and was a team captain in 2022.
8. LB DeMario Tolan
Tolan arguably has the highest upside of any of the portal additions. He only spent one year at LSU, but he's a former four-star recruit who was ranked as the No. 20 linebacker in the class of 2022 and the 204th-best player overall, according to the 247Sports Composite. With Owen Pappoe's departure, he could see some playing time this year.
7. RB Brian Battie
Standing just 5-8, Battie makes up for his lack of size with his shiftiness in the open field. He should be able to battle with Damari Alston for the No. 2 spot behind Jarquez Hunter in the backfield, while also giving Auburn some real juice as a kick returner. He was a consensus All-American returner in 2021.
6. IOL Avery Jones
One of the three offensive linemen brought in, Jones is primed to start at center under Freeze and offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery. He had previously made a commitment to transfer to Illinois, but Auburn swooped in to secure his pledge.
5. OT Gunner Britton
Britton played against the Tigers last season with Western Kentucky, where he spent the last four seasons. Britton's addition was huge, as he's likely to start at either one of the tackle spots.
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4. OT Dillon Wade
Wherever Britton ends up, Wade should end up opposite of him. His arrival coupled with Jones and Britton likely gives Auburn three new starters along the offensive line, with the potential for more if junior college addition Izavion Miller can secure a starting gig.
3. TE Rivaldo Fairweather
Fairweather's numbers at Florida International were modest, but he's a big tight end that moves well for his size and could play a role similar to what Evan Engram did under Freeze at Ole Miss in 2016. Engram, like Fairweather, is an athletic tight end more known for making plays as a receiver than as an inline blocker.
2. LB Austin Keys
Just like Tolan, there's a path for Keys to get significant snaps, but perhaps even more likely in this case. He's a bit more seasoned than Tolan and may even start for Auburn if he can beat out some returnees like Cam Riley and Wesley Steiner.
1. DL Justin Rogers
Once upon a time, Rogers was a four-star recruit coming out of Michigan and the top-rated player in Kentucky's 2020 signing class. He didn't dominate with the Wildcats, but he'll likely have an opportunity at Auburn to start at the heart of the defensive line.
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.
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