“Well, first of all, I feel very blessed to be back at Auburn as the head coach,” Malzahn said. “I feel like we have the best fans in all of college football. If you look at our spring game, we had 83,000-plus fans. Coming off a year like we did last year, that says everything about them.
It was a special feeling for me to come through and see those guys in the lobby. I’m really looking forward to the first day of practice.”
For the third season in a row the quarterback position is a point of concern for the Tigers. Going into fall camp there is a four-man competition. Malzahn hopes that a quarterback will separate himself early in camp.
“Offensively our biggest challenge this year is going to be our quarterback,” Malzahn said. “We don’t know who our quarterback is. We have four guys. (We are) going to give them an equal shot and figure out who gives us the best chance of winning. Ideally we figure that out sooner rather than later in fall camp, but we won’t make a decision until we’re 110 percent for sure. The positive offensively is the fact that we actually recruited guys specifically for this offense. We’ll just need those guys to step up in an accelerated pace.”
Junior Kiehl Frazier was ineffective last season as Auburn’s starting quarterback. Frazier threw for 753 yards with two touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Tigers were 1-4 in his five starts and Auburn finished the season with an overall 3-9 record.
Frazier was in Malzahn’s system in his freshman season at Auburn. Malzahn said it took a while for Frazier to get back adjusted to his system after running a traditional offense last season.
“Kiehl (Frazier) had a solid spring,” Malzahn said. “The unique thing for us is coming in new with new coaches. It probably took about halfway through spring where we actually got the pieces of the puzzle around him to be in the right spot so we could properly evaluate our quarterback. The fact that he had a background in this offense, I think it helped. But anytime last year they went to a completely different offense, it takes a little bit of time to get back in a routine. Probably the last five practices, it started to click and you started to see him get more and more comfortable in this offense.”
During the spring Frazier and Wallace split reps at the quarterback position. Malzhan has also opened the competition to JUCO transfer Nick Marshall and freshman Jeremy Johnson, who was 2012 Mr. Football for the state of Alabama.
“Anytime you’re going to have four guys, that’s definitely a concern,” Malzahn said. “I felt very strong we knew about the two guys in spring, but I wanted to give those two new guys a fair chance. We’ll be doing things a little bit different in fall camp early, and hopefully one of those guys will emerge sooner rather than later.”
Marshall has a lot of hype around him even though he has only been on campus for a month.
Last season at Garden City Community College, Marshall threw for 3,142 yards, 18 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He was also a threat to pull the ball down and run. Last season, he rushed for 1,095 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“When he was in high school, of course, a lot of people thought he was unbelievably talented,” Malzahn said. “Of course, he goes to another SEC school and I believe was very successful at other positions. Then he went to junior college last year. He was a guy I was looking at when I was at Arkansas State. I feel like he has a lot of ability to be very effective. When we got here, we got him on campus. He’ll have a chance. He’s unbelievably talented.
He has a big-time arm. He’s like Jeremy. How quick can he pick up the offense? What we ask our quarterback to do from the sideline, it’s tough pre-snap as far as communication, everything we ask them to do. But we will give him and Jeremy a fair chance and we’ll see what happens.”