Bo Nix officially has competition for the Auburn football starting quarterback job.
How much competition? That remains to be seen. Nix is still a two-year incumbent. TJ Finley's per-game averages last season — 57.1 percent completions, 188.2 yards, 118.2 rating — were worse than Nix's (59.9 percent completions, 219.5 yards, 123.9 rating).
But, at the very least, the LSU transfer who announced his commitment to the blue-and-orange Tigers on Monday could push Nix while providing more security as a backup than senior Grant Loy and true freshman Dematrius Davis would have.
That's because Finley has something Loy and Davis don't — starting experience in the SEC. The 6-foot-6, 242-pound former three-star recruit from Ponchatoula, La., started five games for the Bayou Bengals as a true freshman last season. He passed for 941 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.
Loy, who is going into his second season with the Tigers after three at Bowling Green, attempted only two passes in relief of Nix last season. He's a career 56.2 percent passer with more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (eight). Davis is a four-star recruit who won two Texas state championships in high school, but he's still a first-year player who signed before Bryan Harsin was hired as coach.
Finley struggled in three losses last season, including one at Auburn, completing just 46.8 percent of his passes for 405 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. But he flashed his potential in two wins, completing 17 of 21 passes for 265 yards against South Carolina and 27 of 42 passes for 271 yards against Arkansas.
Nix should probably still be viewed as Auburn's starting quarterback until proven otherwise. The former five-star recruit has 24 career starts under his belt. He has a head start learning the offense coordinator Mike Bobo installed during spring practice. Harsin seemed pleased with the progress Nix showed on A-Day, when he completed 12 of 20 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown.
Plus, there's a reason Finley is transferring away from his home-state school — he exited spring practice seemingly behind Myles Brennan and Max Johnson in the competition to be LSU's starting quarterback.
Still, it's no secret that Nix hasn't lived up to his five-star billing. His completion rate, yards per game and passing touchdowns last year ranked 10th, seventh and sixth among SEC quarterbacks, respectively. The track record Harsin and Bobo have in developing quarterbacks offers hope for improvement, but they won't have the same loyalty to him that former coach Gus Malzahn did.
So maybe Finley can push Nix. Even if he doesn't win the starting job, the threat of another quarterback on the roster with legitimate SEC experience — something the Tigers haven't had during Nix's first two seasons — could help spark the junior incumbent.
Finley's presence should make Auburn better both now and in the future. He projects as a more reliable backup than Loy does. And if Nix does improve and decides to take his talents to the NFL draft after this season, Finley gives the Tigers a more experienced option to replace him than Davis or four-star 2022 commit Holden Geriner.
Auburn wouldn't have gone after an SEC quarterback with four years of eligibility remaining if it didn't think he could contribute, and Finley probably wouldn't have committed if he didn't think he had a chance to someday start.