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Malzahn talks offense

AUBURN – Incoming freshman Quan Bray could play wide receiver. He could play defense. He has even played quarterback. But he’ll start his first preseason practice at Auburn as a running back.

Incoming freshmanQuan Bray

So said Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn on Friday morning.

“I think Quan Bray is one of those guys you’d like to take a look at,” Malzahn said. “He’s probably the main guy that has that ability. He has some other unique qualities and you want him in some other areas, too. He’s kind of a running back that can play wide receiver. He’s played some quarterback, too. He’s very versatile.”

Bray, from LaGrange, Ga., is back working out with his teammates after suffering an unspeakable tragedy on July 3. His mother was shot and killed. Her longtime boyfriend was charged with her murder.

“We’ve talked to him a lot,” Malzahn said. “He’s a super young man. We’ve been trying to comfort him as best we can. We’ve been praying for him. I can’t imagine anyone going through that. That was a tough deal. Football is kind of his outlet. He’s had a great attitude and kept working. He’s one of those guys we’re rooting for.”

More from Malzahn:

MCCALEBB’S ROLE

As a sophomore, tailback Onterio McCalebb ran mostly on the outside. That won’t be enough in the coming season, Malzahn said.

“When you look at the numbers at tailback, he’s going to have to be one of those every-down guys,” Malzahn said. “At times last year he did. He’s mentally tough enough to do that. We’ve been trying to put some weight on him. He’s a tough enough guy to be an every-down back.”

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

Malzahn wants to decide on a starting quarterback as quickly as possible, but he says that’s just one of the important decisions ahead.

“Obviously, when you are talking about quarterbacks, you’d like to identify one as soon as you can so he can start getting the reps with the first group, start getting the timing with the first group of receivers,” Malzahn said. “We’ll try to do that as a quickly as we can. Like I’ve said in the past, we have to be 110 percent sure that’s our guy, because that’s who we are going to go with and that’s who is going to lead our team.

“With that being said, there are so many other positions that are wide open. We may be able to identify the quarterback quicker than some other positions. That’s going to be our biggest challenge as a staff, identifying the guys we are going into the year with.”

ABOUT THOSE QUARTERBACKS

Malzahn, in his sixth season as a college offensive coordinator, will have his sixth starting quarterback. It could be junior Barrett Trotter or sophomore Clint Moseley or even true freshman Kiehl Frazier. Replacing Heisman Trophy-winner Cam Newton will be a challenge, but Malzahn’s quarterbacks have been productive year in and year out.

“I’ve been pretty fortunate to have some talented guys that were very, very good quarterbacks,” Malzahn said. “That has something to do with it. I like to think we are a quarterback-friendly offense and quarterback-oriented offense. The expectations are high for the quarterback in our offense.”

ABOUT THAT FRESHMAN

Malzahn said he won’t know until practice begins how quickly Frazier can join the race to be the starting quarterback.

“I’ll have to get out there and actually work with him in the fall,” Malzahn said. “I recruited him for a long time. You see him on film and he’s very talented, but there’s a big difference in high school and college. Working with a quarterback in that system, it’s just a matter of being able to see and get a feel for that.”

LIFE AFTER CAM

It wasn’t until the fourth game that Newton broke loose and began the run that made him the Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 pick in the NFL draft last season. Malzahn said the 2011 Auburn offense will be built around what the next quarterback can do.

“You identify who your quarterback is,” Malzahn said. “You identify his strengths. You try to build around his strengths. You try not to ask him to do things he’s not strong at or good at. Once we identify our starter, we’ll kind of tweak our offense.

“Just like last year with Cam, it took us two, three, almost four games to really figure out how he was going to react in every situation, what his strengths were. We’ll identify, we’ll tweak. We are still going to have the same offensive philosophy, the same core offense, but we’ll do our best to make that quarterback successful and our offense successful.”

NO HURT FEELINGS

Malzahn said he didn’t believe Auburn’s quarterbacks were hurt by the coaches’ interest in North Carolina State transfer Russell Wilson, who eventually signed with Wisconsin.

“We talk to our team about everything,” Malzahn said. “Anytime we are recruiting, we are always trying to make our team the best it can be. It doesn’t matter what position. Every year we are going to try to recruit the best players at every position.”

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