Former Michigan State QB Payton Thorne transfers to Auburn

Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne (10) throws against Michigan in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Former Michigan State QB Payton Thorne is heading to Auburn. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Former Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne wasn’t in the transfer portal for long.

Less than a week after he entered the portal in search of a new school, Thorne said Friday that he was heading to Auburn. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

Thorne immediately becomes a leading contender to start at quarterback for the Tigers in Hugh Freeze’s first season with the team. Thorne threw for 3,240 yards and 27 TDs along with 10 interceptions in 2021 and threw for 2,679 yards, 19 TDs and 11 interceptions in 2022 as Michigan State won six fewer games than it did the season before.

T.J. Finley opened the season as Auburn’s starter but suffered a shoulder injury in the team’s third game of the season. That opened the door for Robby Ashford to take over as the starter for the remainder of the season and Ashford was far better as a runner than he was a passer. Ashford completed 49% of his passes and threw for 1,613 yards with seven TDs and seven interceptions. He rushed for 710 yards and seven TDs.

As Thorne enters, Finley is no longer part of the QB competition entering the 2023 season. The former LSU QB entered the transfer portal this week in search of his third school. That briefly opened the door for Ashford to be the leader to continue starting games, but now Thorne looks like he could be the likely starter in Week 1 against UMass.

Like Michigan State, Auburn went 5-7 in 2021 in Bryan Harsin's second season with the school. After a tumultuous offseason before the 2022 season, the school made the decision to part ways with the former Boise State coach. Auburn then made the biggest and most controversial hire of the offseason when it agreed to a contract with Freeze, the former Ole Miss and Liberty coach.