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Auburn lands ex-Michigan State QB Payton Thorne

NCAA Football: Michigan State Spring Scrimmage

Apr 15, 2023; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne (10) throws downfield at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

AUBURN, Ala. - Former Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne is headed to Auburn.

Auburn announced the signing of the two-year starter on Friday, giving new coach Hugh Freeze an experienced quarterback to boost a passing game that ranked among the nation’s worst last season.

Thorne went 16-10 as a starter for the Spartans. He has thrown for 6,494 yards with 49 touchdowns against 24 interceptions.

Spartans coach Mel Tucker had said this spring that the two-time team captain was part of an open competition to take the first snap next season.

Thorne ranks fourth in career touchdown passes at Michigan State, fifth in completion percentage (61) and sixth in passing yards.

He started all 12 games last season, passing for 2,679 yards with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The fifth-year senior, who has two years of eligibility remaining, led Michigan State to a Peach Bowl victory.

Auburn returns Robby Ashford, who started much of last season after transferring from Oregon, and redshirt freshman Holden Geriner. Onetime starter T.J. Finley has announced his plans to transfer.

Tigers quarterbacks combined for just nine passing touchdowns last season while ranking 119th in passing yards per game, averaging 173. Ashford proved a running threat while completing just 49% of his passes.

Geriner played briefly in only one game as a freshman. Freshman Hank Brown, whom Freeze recruited at Liberty, is also set to join the mix.