Every Auburn football fan was excited for the addition of Payton Thorne this offseason, especially since Hugh Freeze could turn him into a star after showing some promise at Michigan State, but there were some doubts about his arm strength and accuracy.
Still, adding an athletic quarterback like Thorne was a welcomed sight, especially since Robby Ashford was the projected starter and he left a lot to be desired with his arm.
Early on, Thorne looked like he would be serviceable, at worst, under center for the Tigers. He didn't need to do much in the first three wins but then four straight mediocre games against solid opponents led to four losses and it was clear that he would not be a difference-maker with his arm. He just didn't have that it factor through the air.
Thorne tricked people back into believing over the next three games against Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas which were all wins. He looked like he turned a corner.
He did not.
Auburn then lost by 21 to New Mexico State at home (not a typo) and then he was just 5-for-16 passing for 91 yards against Alabama. And then he capped off his first season with the Tigers with a 13-for-27 for 84 yards, a touchdown, and a pick performance in an ugly Music City Bowl loss to Maryland.
Thorne finished the 2023 season with just over 1,700 passing yards and 16 touchdowns with 10 picks and a completion rate that was lower than his 2022 number at Michigan State.
Auburn may have made a bowl game and started a turnaround, but Thorne has to be considered the team's biggest disappointment.