Auburn will be without quarterback T.J. Finley this weekend when it takes on Mississippi State.
Finley did not travel with the team to Starkville, Miss., on Friday, multiple sources confirmed to AL.com. Finley’s absence from Auburn’s road trip was described by one source as a “mental health break” for the junior quarterback. On3.com was the first to report Finley wasn’t traveling with the team.
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It has been a turbulent season for Finley, who entered the year as Auburn’s starting quarterback after beating out Robby Ashford, Zach Calzada and Holden Geriner for the top spot. He completed 22-of-34 passes for 279 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions through Auburn’s first two games — wins against Mercer and San Jose State — before he injured his shoulder during Auburn’s loss to Penn State on Sept. 17. The injury, a Grade 2 sprain of the AC joint in his throwing shoulder, forced him to miss each of the Tigers’ next three games against Missouri, LSU and Georgia, as Ashford took over the starting role.
Finley returned briefly against Ole Miss before the bye week, inserted for one series after Ashford struggled early against the Rebels. Finley played just three snaps before a fumble on a strip-sack resulted in a turnover. He did not see the field in last week’s loss to Arkansas, and according to a source, Finley is still rehabbing the shoulder, which is not yet 100 percent recovered from the shoulder sprain he suffered against Penn State.
On the year, Finley has completed 33-of-53 passes (62.3 percent) for 431 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. Ashford has started each of Auburn’s last five games, during which the Tigers have gone 1-4 with four consecutive losses. That losing streak and the team’s overall struggles the last two seasons led to Monday’s firing of head coach Bryan Harsin, along with offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Eric Kiesau and five other staffers. Running backs coach Cadillac Williams was elevated to interim head coach for the remainder of the season and will lead his alma mater into Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2) matchup in Starkville.
Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.