Auburn Tigers: 2013 Season Success Hinges on Kiehl Frazier, Carl Lawson

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn endured a challenging 2012 season that resulted in the firing of Gene Chizik only two years removed from a national title, and the hiring of former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

The 3-9 record looks even worse when you consider the Tigers were winless in the SECand coupled with the success of in-state rival Alabama winning a second national title in as many years, you can understand why the school had to make a change.

Malzahn returns to Auburn where he was the offensive coordinator during the school’s championship season and turned Cam Newton into the Heisman trophy winner after a successful stint as the head coach at Arkansas State. He is faced with the task of fixing an offense that was among the worst in the nation last season as a result of a revolving door of inadequacy at the quarterback position.

Auburn used three different quarterbacks this season with little success among the trio of Kiehl Frazier, Clint Moseley and Jonathan Wallace, who combined to throw a paltry eight touchdowns in 12 games while throwing 13 interceptions.

Moseley recently announced he is leaving the football program, and Frazier is expected to be the starting quarterback in 2013 despite being benched last season. Frazier played in Malzahn’s offense in high school and was recruited to play in Malzahn’s offense, so when he left for Arkansas State he was trying to play in a pro-style system which doesn’t fit his skill-set.

In addition to fixing the quarterback and the offense, Malzahn tried to keep as many of the recruits that committed to Chizik prior to his firing, but has found that to be a losing battle so far.

Auburn has seen top recruits Dee Liner, Reuben Foster and Trey Johnson decommit, and could be on the verge of losing their top recruit, Carl Lawson, who is visiting Tennessee this weekend after visiting with Clemson last weekend and could soon get an offer from Ole Miss.

Losing Lawson, the nation’s No. 2 prospect, would be a huge blow to the recruiting class that once ranked as high as No. 7, but has seen it drop down to No. 14 after the recent decommitments. Malzahn has been able to keep Alabama’s Mr. Football Jeremy Johnson (Montgomery, Al, Carver). The 6-5 quarterback is extremely talented but extremely raw, and could benefit from a redshirt season.

Looking ahead to 2013 should be much better for Auburn as the offense figures to be markedly improved with Malzahn and if Lawson remains committed the defense will have a potential future All-American along the defensive line.

Bottom line: Auburn should double their win total of last season and get back to a bowl game in 2013 behind a much improved offense under Malzahn.

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Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” on Sportstownchicago.com airing Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.

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