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Sans Shirt, Pearl Continues To Make Waves (Good Ones) For Auburn Hoops

pearl-dunk-tankWhen you hire Bruce Pearl you get two different people.  You get a basketball coach with a track record of serious on-court success (and some off-court flubs).  And you get a guy who enjoys the hell out of the spotlight… which makes him a walking billboard for your basketball program.

Auburn has yet to reap the awards of Pearl’s in-game strengths, but they’ve already seen in marketing prowess.  First he stage-dived into a mosh pit of AU fans upon his arrival on the Plains.  His introductory press conference was 95% a revival meeting.  He also took to ESPN’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” show to don an Auburn baseball jersey and football helmet.

While Pearl said during his first presser that he would likely keep his shirt on at Auburn, it took less than a month to get him out of it.  Yesterday he took center stage in a dunk tank for an Auburn fraternity’s fund-raiser.

 

Bruce Pearl goes in the dunk tank for charity

 

There are a couple of reasons Pearl isn’t the most popular guy in the world when it comes to the coaching fraternity.  (His teams at Tennessee were consistently ranked lower in the coaches poll than in the AP Poll.)  First, he’s still carrying the baggage from decisions he made as an assistant at Iowa that led to him being blackballed to Division II for a decade.  Second, there aren’t many coaches who’ll paint their chests, step into dunking booths, wear football helmets, etc, in the name of promoting the program.  And when fans see Pearl do it, many of them say, “Why won’t our guy be fun like that?”

If anything, Pearl’s ramping up his marketing efforts at Auburn.  He’s averaging a national headline per week.  Either he realizes AU will be a tougher rebuild and is therefore in more need of pub than UT was… or he’s really, really missed the spotlight.

Probably a little of both.

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Pearl To Auburn A Done Deal; Tigers Get A Winner

Auburn basketball is getting an upgrade.  The Tigers have hired Bruce Pearl as their new basketball coach.

Pearl — a man who has won at Southern Indiana (D-II), Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and at Tennessee — will take over a Tiger program that has been woeful since the departure of Cliff Ellis a decade ago.

Expect the NCAA to keep a close eye on AU hoops moving forward.  Expect one heckuva game between Auburn and Tennessee next season.  And expect several people to ask questions about the way Pearl landed at AU and about potential conflict of interest inside the NCAA at the time of his show-cause ban.

Pearl has become the first major-sport coach to come off a show-cause penalty and jump right back into coaching.

Auburn will still have to go before the NCAA to ask that Pearl’s penalty be ended ahead of August, as it’s currently scheduled.  A big, big get for Auburn and — let’s face it — a big, big get for an SEC in dire need of good basketball coaches.

 

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If Pearl Lands At Auburn, Get Ready For “Conflict Of Interest” Questions For The NCAA

dave-didionAs someone who covers SEC basketball, here’s hoping Bruce Pearl lands another coaching job if that is his desire.  Ole Miss, Eastern Connecticut State, wherever, Pearl is a larger than life character and a tremendous coach.  So bully for him if/when he coaches again.

Reports this morning suggest that Auburn has entered into negotiations with the ex-Tennessee coach and current NCAA analyst.  Auburn, huh?

About that whole “happy for him to coach anywhere” thing?  Let’s amend that.  How ’bout anywhere but Auburn?

No, this isn’t some “You guys hate Auburn” push.  It’s the situation that’s questionable, not the destination.

By now you know that Auburn senior associate athletic director Dave Didion (photo at left) was the lead NCAA investigator three years ago on the Tennessee case that ultimately led that school to fire Pearl and led to Pearl being handed a three-year show-cause penalty by Didion’s organization.  Last April, Didion resigned his post as the NCAA’s director of enforcement and accepted a job handling compliance issues for AU, a school he’d worked for once before.  At the time of his job switch, Didion had this to say:

 

“It’s personal, but I just wanted to go back to campus, and Auburn is one of the few places that I could go to.  I really enjoyed the people, and I enjoyed members of the coaching staff.  It’s a great community.  It’s a beautiful university.  No reason not to go back.”

 

And these comments were posted on Auburn’s website last June:

 

“I just told (AD Jay) Jacobs what the atmosphere was like at the national office but enforcement specifically, and told him I was looking for a different opportunity… He told me he was going to work on something…

“I’ve never lost my interest in Auburn University.  Jay can tell you that, because every time something good happened, I emailed him and congratulated him.  Every time something tragic happened, I emailed him.  I’ve always loved Auburn University — loved the campus, loved the people, loved the area.”

 

Interesting, no?

First, Didion was at/near the top of NCAA enforcement during the completely mishandled investigation into the University of Miami that led to an internal purge.  No wonder he didn’t like the atmosphere in his department, it was toxic.

Second, and most importantly, Didion’s comments about never losing his interest in Auburn open up a lot of questions about just how much he loved Auburn and how much he might have wanted to drive a winning coach from his job at one of Auburn’s rival.  To be fair, there’s no proof of a conspiracy and there’s no evidence that Didion always had his eyes set on an AU return.

But.

Didion worked at Auburn.  Didion says he never stopped loving Auburn.  Didion was the lead investigator on the Pearl case.  Pearl got iced.  Didion landed back at Auburn.  And if reports are true, Didion has now cleared Auburn to hire Pearl.  Can you say “conflict of interest?”

Pearl was show-cause’d because he provided false information to NCAA investigators.  Aside from playing players, that violation is the grand no-no in the organization’s rule book.  And with college sports’ governing body owning zero subpoena power, it’s a necessary rule.  Well, just listen to what Didion said about those types of violations last June:

 

“What I’ve always told coaches — and it remains true — is if you do something that is wrong and you come and talk with us about it, we can fix it, we can help you, no problem.  We might have to report a secondary violation, but that’s OK.  No problem.  But if you try to hide something or don’t tell us the truth about something it’s really, really bad.  We’re not going to tolerate it.  I don’t think Jay is going to tolerate it.  I don’t think President (Jay) Gogue is going to tolerate it.”

 

Well, if Pearl lands at Auburn, the school, Jacobs, Gogue and the very man who made those comments will be hiring someone who did that very thing to the man who made those comments.

News flash: People don’t like the NCAA.  People don’t trust the NCAA.  Pearl to Auburn probably won’t help matters.  Anyone looking for a new line of attack on the NCAA will have it.

Now, in South Alabama where Pearl has gone from “cheater” (at Tennessee) to a good man done wrong (if he lands at Auburn), Didion’s clearance makes AU the perfect spot for Pearl.  Who better to clear him?  Who better to say the NCAA overreacted?

And that will have to be the spin from Auburn, correct?  Either that or Didion and company will have to admit: “There equals bad; here equals good.”

For Auburn fans grumbling that anyone might question this whole Pearl/Didion/AU storyline, let’s try and provide some perspective.  Let’s say an Alabama associate AD goes to work for the NCAA.  He then investigates Auburn which leads to Gus Malzahn receiving a show-cause ban.  Then the same man returns to Tuscaloosa — admitting that he never took his eyes off the place — and Alabama hires Malzahn to replace Nick Saban as soon as his show-cause is up.  Ya know who’d be raising holy hell?  Auburn fans.  And all of you darn well know it.

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SEC Fans All Clamoring For Pearl (Which Is Why He Should Sit Tight)

bruce-pearl3Over the weekend, Auburn sports information director Kirk Sampson decided to follow Bruce Pearl’s Twitter feed.

The internet then exploded.

Auburn fans — spurred on both by Sampson’s Twitter move and a pair of reports from AU-centric pay sites — caught Pearl Fever.  An announcement of his hiring was first expected Sunday.  Now some say an announcement could come today.  Pearl’s fellow ESPN’er Dan Dakich was having some fun with the hubbub last night, saying “War Eagle” while Pearl was across the desk from him during a bracket breakdown show.  An Auburn fan joined in the fun and games by editing Pearl’s Wikipedia page to read: “On March 16th, 2014, Pearl was hired as the head basketball coach of Auburn University.”

We’ve been down this road before with Nick Saban-to-Texas and Jon Gruden-to-Tennessee reports.  For that reason, we’ll believe the Pearl-to-Auburn rumors when the coach puts pen to paper.  That doesn’t mean AU athletic director Jay Jacobs isn’t chasing Pearl, just that we’d be surprised if he jumps at the offer.

A quick Twitter check yesterday revealed in one quick five-minute burst that fans of Auburn, Missouri, Ole Miss, and Tennessee were calling for Pearl to be hired by their favorite school.  To heck with Frank Haith, Andy Kennedy and Cuonzo Martin.  And more than a few Alabama fans were still grousing about Anthony Grant getting another year when Pearl is just sitting out there waiting for a phone call(!).

This is no knock on Auburn and if Pearl really wants to dive back into coaching, best of luck to him and the Tigers.  Lord knows the SEC needs another good basketball coach.  But why jump at the first opportunity?  Clearly, the longer Pearl sits out the more other fanbases will scream for him.  It seems he becomes a better coach with every game he doesn’t actually coach (and he was pretty darned good to start with).  Also, this time a year from now his show-cause will be over and no school hiring him will have to go before the NCAA to ask for any kind of early parole.

Auburn has a small, 9,000-seat arena.  Would Pearl view that as a big enough stage for his triumphant return?  It’ll be up to Jacobs to convince him that it would, if indeed Pearl is Jacobs’ top choice.

For those Tiger fans who’ve already gotten their hopes up — and Sampson’s Twitter move certainly set things up for some “anticipointment” if Pearl doesn’t land the job — they should remember that all coaches like to hear their names called.  It’s fun to be wanted.  So when Pearl said last week that he would listen to AU or anyone else who called him, you can believe it.  Whether that means he’ll take the first offer he gets is another matter.

For Pearl, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him wait things out for another year.  He has the personality to become ESPN’s next Dick Vitale if he decides that’s the route for him.  Meanwhile, Tennessee — Pearl still resides in Knoxville — will be rebuilding next year and Misters Martin, Haith, Kennedy, Grant, Mark Fox, Billy Kennedy and Josh Pastner at Memphis will all be just a few losses away from fans revolting.  Matter of fact, if Mike Anderson doesn’t improve things next season, expect some Arkansas fans to join in on the “We want Bruce” chants, too.  If Frank Martin at South Carolina continues to make a rear of himself… ditto.

For Auburn fans, Pearl would indeed be a home run hire if the NCAA feels he’s paid his debt in full.  He would give clout to the Tiger program, boost recruiting, and become a one-man marketing army.  Past history suggests he’d also win on the Plains.  Quickly.

But be careful not to get your hopes up, Tiger fans.  Coaches love to be chased and there are plenty of people who know Pearl who don’t believe Auburn will be his top choice.

The clock’s ticking.  Maybe we’ll know something soon.  Heck, according to some messageboards, an announcement could be coming today, remember?

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Auburn The First Test Case For Ex-Tennessee Coach Pearl

bruce-pearl4Coaches slapped with a show-cause penalty typically have a rough time finding new jobs.  Bruce Pearl’s show-cause penalty will be up in August.  Auburn fired fourth-year coach Tony Barbee immediately after his woeful Tigers were bounced from the SEC Tournament by even more woeful South Carolina last night.  ”Pearl to Auburn,” naturally, has become a hot topic in the hours since Barbee’s dismissal.

So will Auburn roll the dice on a guy who would very likely win?

If there’s any school that would take a chance on an NCAA ex-con it’s AU.  The Tigers have been on probation more often than any other SEC school.  You can set your clock by the rumors, accusations, and investigations that swirl around the school’s athletic department on a regular basis.  This despite the fact that two of the school’s associate ADs were once NCAA employees. 

Add it up and Auburn chasing Pearl makes sense.  Heck, we wrote last March that Barbee’s job for this season might be saved because Pearl would be on the market for 2014-15.  We’ve written repeatedly this season that AU would be the most likely school to make a run at Pearl.  So will they?

The ex-Tennessee coach has said that he would like to coach again in the right situation.  While Auburn has been a coaching graveyard of late, it is an SEC school.  Pearl knows the lay of the land in Dixie.  After three years off the court even a small 9,000-seat arena — meaning Auburn’s — might appeal to him.

Then again, Pearl has put down roots in Knoxville.  He married an East Tennessee native who might not want to pick up and head to the Loveliest Village on the Plains.  His kids are in East Tennessee jobs and schools.  And he’s already stated that he wants to go a place where the administration wants basketball to be as successful as football.  Not sure that any school in Alabama fits that particular mold.

Pearl has, however, already sorta/kinda pitched himself for the AU job.  A savvy marketer, he responded to a question at The Birmingham Tip-Off Club in December by explaining how he built fan support at Tennessee:

 

“So I would go to the Auburn communities and we would have our own events (before Tennessee’s trips to Auburn).  I got 50 people to come to the game at Auburn while I was developing my program.  We were asking for their support.”

 

Translation: If I can get people into Auburn’s gym as Tennessee’s coach, what could I do as Auburn’s coach?

So again, will AD Jay Jacobs go after a proven winner who carries some baggage from previous stops?  There was controversy when Pearl was an assistant at Iowa.  He was blackballed in the coaching industry for a decade after taping a phone call with a recruit and trying to pin dirt on Illinois’ staff.  At D-II Southern Indiana he won big, but he did so in a Terry Bowden kind of way… taking rejects and reclamation projects from D-I schools.  He was handed the equivalent of a speeding ticket for having a high school junior at his house while at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  He did the same at Tennessee, then lied about it, then called a prospect’s parent to — in the parent’s mind — cajole him into covering the matter up when the NCAA called.  And that resulted in a trip to the NCAA hoosegow.

If Pearl wants a job in the SEC, Auburn is the place he’s most likely to land.  But whether he would take the job or not is a question for another day.  For now the issue is simple: Will Auburn try to hire Bruce Pearl?  If Jacobs does ring him up, it will be a clear sign that Pearl’s debt to society has been paid in the eyes of school administrators.  But if Auburn — Auburn — doesn’t chase him, it likely means Pearl won’t be the hot commodity this offseason that many believed he would be.

Auburn is the test case for Pearl.  Will a big-time school hire him and go before the NCAA to explain why they hired him (which Auburn would have to do)?

The jury’s out.

 

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A Wandering Mind Takes In The BCS Title Game And ESPN’s “Megacast”

gfx - honest opinionJust a few random observations I typed into the ol’ iPad while taking in Florida State’s 34-31 victory over Auburn in last night’s BCS Championship Game…

 

FIRST QUARTER

*  What would happen if a network simply opened its broadcast of a football game with a simple intro tune?  Would the game even be played if some country/rock/rap star didn’t provide the music bed for a 1,000 mph, over-produced “hype you up” video?

*  Poor Brent Musburger.  The guy is a legend.  And unlike a lot of aging broadcasters, he’s not prone to stumbles, bungles or gaffes.  He still speaks clearly and — at least to my generation — he’s still the go-to voice for big events (along with Al Michaels and Jim Nantz).  But he just intro’d himself as Kirk Herbstreit “along with Brent Musburger.”  Surely he wouldn’t have joked like that.  Most wouldn’t get it.  If he was joking, I didn’t get it.

*  20 years ago if Musburger says that it’s on its way to Mars, forgotten about in the grand scheme of things.  In this day and age, it lights up Twitter.  It’ll be a story tomorrow.

*  OK, we get it, Brent.  Renegade is on hand for FSU.

*  By the way, watching Tim Tebow during the pre-game, he’s way too nice to provide anything of interest on the SEC Network.  A guy doesn’t have to be mean, of course, but if he never says anything critical it’s hard to believe him when he says something positive.  Tebow is as likable as they come, but his nice guy personality will likely make him a Jon Gruden-esque bouquet-tosser. I have no clue, however, how anyone could dislike the guy.

*  John Legend with a straight-forward, excellent anthem.  Let this guy do more of ‘em.

*  ESPN’s “Title Talk” room is a little too peppy.  Michael W. Smith pushing the “party” angle of the channel.  Celebs, players and coaches are supposed to drop in and watch and talk.  You’re selling it too hard, Michael.

*  The “Film Room” looks to be a cool concept, but will it fly once the action begins?

*  After a big Auburn run on the first play of the game, FSU forces a 3rd-and-7 and Gus Malzahn has to take a timeout.  If that’s to settle the troops, OK.  But blowing a timeout just 1:16 into the game isn’t a great sign.

*  Terrific play call by Malzahn to get Ricardo Louis open deep but Nick Marshall underthrows by a mile.  Still shoulda been caught, but Auburn just missed a chance to go up 7-0 and land a haymaker in the first round.

*  Nice drive by the Seminoles, but AU’s red zone defense holds.  They’ve been good all year at prevent red zone TDs.  Gonna have to keep it up to win this one.

*  Florida State’s defense is fast.  SEC fast.  The rush has Marshall looking a little addled.

*  Super punt by Auburn.  Downed at the two to fill the field.  But will it flip momentum?

*  Uh, yep.  AU stops ‘em then Chris Davis with the nice return and the Tigers are in business near FSU’s 30.

*  FSU is too fast for Auburn to get its perimeter run game going.  That’s their bread and butter.  Not a good sign for the SEC.

*  Beautiful 3rd-and-9 screen for the TD.  Nice call by Malzahn.  As play-caller, AU’s coach is a master.

*  ESPN’s “Film Room” has great post-TD discussion.  Maybe this does fly for a live game.  Split screen makes the action a bit too small, but the info is excellent.

*  Special teams played a big role on that exchange.  Momentum in AU’s favor now… all due to punt downed deep.

*  Aaron Eckhart, what happened, dude?  You go from “Thank You For Smoking” to “I, Frankenstein?”  Ah, well, that kind of fare will probably buy him a new beach house.

*  Fingers-crossed there’ll be no “discount double-check” ads in tonight’s game.  When you have to go back to a 20-year-old SNL skit for your ads, you’ve probably run out of ideas.

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Is Mizzou Ready For Auburn’s Fastball?

gfx - they said itGus Malzahn wants to run the fastest offense in the country.  But this week his Auburn Tigers will meet another bunch of Tigers are who are pretty well versed in defending hurry-up teams.  That’s because Missouri runs more plays per game than even Auburn (74 to 72.7, according to The Birmingham News).

Mizzou linebacker Donovan Bonner discussed his team’s ability to go up-tempo while being careful not to provide any bulletin-board material to AU’s players:

 

“Our offense does it in practice at a tempo that I believe no team has done this year.  So we do it actually faster in practice just to prepare in case something like this happens.  We’re pretty good with fast ball.  We’ve played fast ball in my years here.  We’ve played a lot of fast ball teams coming from the Big 12 to the SEC…

(Auburn does) a lot of motion.  So guys, especially at my position, linebacker, you have to focus on looking at your keys and knowing what’s going on instead of looking at the fly motion and like zone-read.  They can pull it out and run with the quarterback.  Sometimes they can raise up and pass it.  It’s really a triple-threat offense, man…

If you mess up one gap (against Auburn), you go for a big run.  We’re just going to study film a lot.  More than we’ve already been doing.” 

 

Bonner said nothing wrong there.  But we’ll guarantee you this quote — “Our offense does it in practice at a tempo that I believe no team has done this year.  So we do it actually faster in practice (period)” — will find its way to Auburn’s offensive players this week.  Coaches look for any edge possible and the odds of an Auburn coach not saying, “They think they’re faster than you,” are slim to none.

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Malzahn’s Success Further Exposes Chizik’s Missteps At Auburn Last Season

malzahn-chizikAuburn’s Gus Malzahn was expected to have the quickest path to success of all of the SEC’s new coaches.  His “rebuilding” project would benefit from a fully-loaded roster, unlike the projects getting underway at Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee.

But Auburn’s roster isn’t just talented, it’s Malzahn-talented.  It’s filled with players recruited to specifically run his hurry-up, spread attack.  That fact has played a big role in Auburn winning more games than most of us would have expected.

It’s also further emphasized just how big a mistake Gene Chizik made last season in turning away from Malzahn’s brand of offense..

Chizik is a defensive-minded coach.  He’d been a defensive coordinator before landing his first head coaching job at Iowa State.  So it’s no wonder that he wasn’t a complete convert to Malzahn’s go-go ways.  Up-tempo offenses don’t allow defensive teammates to get as much rest between series.  As offenses speed up, typically a team’s defensive stats will go down.  This year’s Auburn squad, for example, ranks 12th in the 14-team SEC in total defense (in SEC games).

There was a bit of friction between Chizik and Malzahn in 2011 as the head coach asked his offensive coordinator to slow things down a bit in an effort to protect the Tigers’ defense.  At the conclusion of that season Malzahn took the head coaching job at Arkansas State and Chizik hired Scot Loeffler to install more of a pro-style, normal-paced offense.  But with a team recruited to run Malzahn’s spread, Loeffler was doomed from the outset.

Under Malzahn, Auburn’s offense had finished second, first, and eighth in the SEC in total offense from 2009 through 2011.  Last year, the Tigers finished dead last in that category, averaging just 305 yards per game under Loeffler.

AU fell to 3-9, the Tigers heave-ho’d Chizik just two years removed from a BCS crown, and brought back Malzahn.  Instead of a rebuild, Auburn’s new coach is enjoying more of a “pick up where I left off” kind of season.

Auburn’s recruiting classes have ranked highly from 2009 (fifth-year seniors) to 2013 (true freshmen).  With the exception of one signing class in 2012, Malzahn was present for all of those recruitments.  And even with the February 2012 class, Malzahn had been working on those players before departing for Arkansas State.

According to Rivals.com, Auburn’s classes from ’09 through ’13 ranked 19th, 4th, 7th, 10th and 8th.  Arkansas and Kentucky haven’t come close to that level of success.  Tennessee had some top 20 classes, but they’ve had twice as much attrition as the other programs thanks to two coaching changes since 2009 (and three since 2008).  Further, the coaches at Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee didn’t have a hand in any of the scouting or signing done prior to their arrival.  Malzahn did.

This is not to take away from the job Malzahn has done.  The only folks who would have predicted he’d enter the Iron Bowl at 10-1 would have been Tiger fans and they’d have been making their predictions based on hope and heart, not facts and figures.

But while Malzahn deserves credit, Chizik deserves blame.  Or pity.  He had a roster built to do one thing and he attempted to do something else.  It wound up costing him and his assistants their jobs.

Now Malzahn has returned to simply pick up where he left off.

 

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Auburn’s Malzahn Says He’s Never Told A Player To Fake An Injury

If you happened to see this…

 

Auburn Linebacker Anthony Swain Fake Injury

 

… during Auburn’s 35-17 win at Arkansas on Saturday, you probably thought the same thing everyone else thought — linebacker Anthony Swain was faking an injury and he was coached to do so.  Arkansas had just converted a fourth-and-three play and would go on to cash in on the scoring drive, cutting into Auburn’s lead.

Not so according to AU coach Gus Malzahn:

 

“At the time I did not see it happen, but after watching the TV copy I could see why people questioned it.  I’ve coached for 23 years and I’ve never told any player to fake an injury…

I promise you this, moving forward there will be no questionable issues like that again.”

 

Pretty definitive.  No word, however, on whether Malzahn has ever told an assistant to tell a player to fake an injury.

Swain is expected to return from his “bruised knee” on Saturday when Auburn rolls into Tennessee with its top 10 record.

You can watch Malzahn’s presser on our Overtime Page.

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Malzahn Ready To Deal With Auburn’s 4-Man QB Race

4 qb silhouetteGus 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.

And their new coach can’t wait to get to started:

 

“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.

 

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