Gus Malzahn, the new head coach of the Auburn Tigers, must make a critical decision this spring, one that will directly affect his fortunes during his first season as a head coach in the Southeastern Conference.
Malzahn, who came back to Auburn after one successful season as head coach at Arkansas State, is known as an offensive guru. He was the offensive coordinator for the Tigers when they won the national title three years ago. And Malzahn’s Auburn team must be better on offense than last season’s team if there is to be a turnaround on the Plains.
The decision looming over Malzahn, and the Auburn program, is who will be the starting quarterback this season?
During spring practice, returning signal callers Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace have been splitting the reps. The coaching staff has not said who is ahead in the competition, nor are they expected to do so during the spring.
Last season, Frazier completed 53.4 percent of his passes for 753 yards, with two touchdowns and a whopping eight interceptions. Wallace hit on 57.5 percent of his throws for 720 yards, with four scores and seven picks. Those numbers will need to improve if Frazier and/or Wallace expect to be starting for Auburn this fall.
The other wrinkle in the quarterback race is that three newcomers will join the Auburn roster this fall, and any one of them, with an outstanding preseason camp, could be named the starter. Junior college transfer Nick Marshall, as well as freshmen Jeremy Johnson and Jason Smith, will be on the Tigers’ roster for fall camp, and all are expected to be given at least somewhat of a chance to compete for the job.
Malzahn’s high-tempo, no-huddle offense demands the right quarterback, and that’s why the decision on the starter is so important. Malzahn and his staff have other areas on the squad to fix as well, but in this case, it all starts with the man behind center.