Senior Leadership from Transfer Portal can Turn Auburn Tigers Around

Head Coach Hugh Freeze and the Auburn Tigers have attacked the transfer portal in order to bring in experienced players to help right away as they build towards a sustained future.
Auburn Tigers tight end Rivaldo Fairweather is one of several seniors who arrived via the transfer portal.
Auburn Tigers tight end Rivaldo Fairweather is one of several seniors who arrived via the transfer portal. / Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
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When the college football world, especially the entrenched media, decry the transfer portal, they fail to see an opportunity. For the Auburn Tigers, the 2024 version of the portal signings reaped rewards. Some of these players may depart The Plains at the conclusion of this football season. 

However, the influence on and off the field will resonate with the Auburn program for years to come. Hugh Freeze set in motion a series of signing that stacked the two-deep depth chart, stocked with senior players, ready to contribute. As a result, this incarnation of the Tigers will hit the field with purpose. Thanks to the senior leadership. especially on offense, look for better execution.

 Percy Lewis, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi State

In Lewis, Auburn will enjoy two different aspects of his senior leadership. First, NFL scouts envision him as the first Auburn offensive linemen selected since the Philadelphia Eagles selected Prince Tega Wanogho in the sixth round of the 2020 draft. 

Lewis excels in pass protection, despite his mammoth frame (6'7", 355 pounds). He moves laterally very well, cutting edge rushers from bending the edge. Additionally, with his size, Lewis can ward off countermoves that produce inside separation. Likewise, the Mississippi State transfer bears down on defenders, creating holes in either the B or C gap. 

KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Wide Receiver, Penn State

After a four-year, 126-catch, 11-touchdown career in Happy Valley, Lambert-Smith chooses The Plains to wrap up his collegiate journey. With smooth-route technique, Lambert-Smith brings the ability to seamlessly fit within the offense. 

Payton Thorne needs to move the offense. A weapon like Lambert-Smith should keep the chains moving. Furthermore, the Penn State standout could serve as a mentor to blue-chip wideout Cam Coleman. Coleman represents the immediate future for the Tigers. 

Teams pursued Coleman for years. To his credit, he spurned Alabama which endeared him to the fanbase. Coleman can sit under the proverbial learning tree of a veteran player that fully understands what collegiate experience brings to the table. 

Rivaldo Fairweather, Tight End, FIU

After leaving FIU for Auburn in 2023, Fairweather settled in nicely. With six receiving touchdowns, he doubled the nearest teammate's total. Granted, Fairweather may not dominate the seam, blurring past opponents. 

Yet, the ability to muscle smaller defenders and find the end zone stands out. In a quarterback's mind, the short yardage tight end with sure hands and the ability to churn out yards after contact, makes him a valued target. 

Plus, after a year of SEC play, he fully comprehends the deeper meaning and pressure of the Southeastern conference. Lastly, Fairweather probably looks towards the Iron Bowl as a chance of redemption. Last year, Fairweather did not post a single catch, leaving the field rather empty.

Payton Thorne, Quarterback, Michigan State

Thorne enters his final season of eligibility still waiting for a breakout season. He's the unquestioned starter of this Auburn team after throwing for 1,755 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. His success and leadership will be crucial if Auburn is to improve on its 6-7 record in Thorne's first season with the Tigers.


If 2024 turns out to be a launching point for Auburn, the seniors that lead the team deserve all of praise. These players, some may not go down in team lore, but they built a foundation for a scintilla of a turnaround. The football fanbase looks tired. 

They endure the Tide's runaway success. Now, Georgia ascension to national prominence serves as the pebble in their collective shoe. Now, a group of seniors, many transfers, can set the ship in the right direction.

Terrance Biggs


Senior Editor/ Podcast Host, Full Press Coverage, Bleav, Member: Football Writers Association of America, United States Basketball Writers Association, and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, National Football Foundation Voter: FWAA All-American, Jim Thorpe, Davey O'Brien, Outland, and Biletnikoff Awards