Gus Malzahn is just a month away from his first game as Auburn’s head football coach. Before that contest against Washington State — which will probably look more like a track meet than a football game — Malzahn will preside over his first fall camp as AU’s head coach. And before the end of camp and the first game, Malzahn will need to unravel his first quarterback battle as head coach.
The Tigers return Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace from a year ago. Neither wowed last season during a miserable 3-9 campaign on the Plains. Newcomers Nick Marshall — a juco transer — and Jeremy Johnson — the state of Alabama’s Mr. Football as high schooler last season — will also be joining the competition.
“Boy, I tell you what, I’ll be close to those quarterbacks. There’s no doubt about that. They usually get out there first…
We’ve heard good things about all of our new guys as far as their attitudes and Coach (Ryan) Russell (AU’s strength coach) is real excited about their work ethics and their attitudes going into fall camp. So, really, we’re going into this thing with an open mind, specifically the quarterbacks. We’ll put them in as many game-type situations that we can early in fall camp and try to determine who is going to give us the best chance of winning.”
Frazier, a junior, played in nine games last year completing just 53% of his passes with a miniscule 6.5 yards-per-attempt average. He threw eight picks against two INTs. He also lost 35 yards on 42 rushing attempts, though clearly several of those rushes were sacks.
Sophomore-to-be Wallace also saw action in nine games. He completed 57% of his passes with a much better 9.0 yards-per-attempt number. His touchdown to interception ratio left something to be desired (four to four) and his per carry average as a rusher was just 2.98.
Having experienced that, it’s easy to understand why Tiger fans are eager to find out what Marshall and Johnson can do. Marshall’s the juco transfer with the big arm and fast legs. Johnson is the tallest, stoutest competitor in the quarterback derby. Hopeful comparisons to Cam Newton can be found on more than one AU messageboard.
By the end of the week, Malzahn and the Auburn faithful will start to see (or hear) for themselves just how well these guys stack up against one another.