AUBURN – Gus Malzahn, Auburn's first year head coach, said Wednesday he doesn’t know who will start at quarterback for Auburn next season. But he said it should not be viewed as a negative that there was no separation between sophomore Jonathan Wallace and junior Kiehl Frazier in spring practice.
Sophomore quarterback Jonathan Wallace
“Sometimes that’s not a negative,” Malzahn said. “Sometimes it’s a positive, and you have two guys you feel like can do it. It’s just a matter of we’re going to give everybody a fair chance. Quarterback is a key position. You want to make sure once you make a decision that you are 100 percent right. We’ll see who gives us the best chances of winning.”
Everybody includes junior college transfer Nick Marshall and freshmen Jeremy Johnson and Jason Smith. Marshall, Malzahn said, was signed as a quarterback and only a quarterback.
“The challenge for the new guys coming is, during the summer, they have to have a good understanding and understand the receivers,” Malzahn said. “There is a window of time. Whether it’s two weeks, three weeks, as coaches you have to make a decision. I know a lot of coaches will wait to the day before to say who the starter is. My experience is the earlier the better so you can start getting everything that goes with being a leader and all that.”
Malzahn said he is pleased with the progress his team made during spring practice.
“I like where our team is mentally coming out of spring,” Malzahn said. “We learned a lot of things. I like where we are. We have some work to do. As a matter of fact, we have a lot of work to do. But I like where our mindset is. I feel like our team is closer together, and that was important.”
After spending most of spring practice looking at the big picture of Auburn football, Malzahn will return to his roots and concentrate on offense when preseason practice begins.
“I will be involved in the fall on the offensive side,” Malzahn said. “Not specifically coaching a position, but I will be involved in day to day things as far as the offense goes.”
When Auburn moved sophomore Josh Holsey to safety the final week of spring practice, he quickly adapted. And that’s why he’ll start spring practice as a starter.
“He is a very good tackler,” Malzahn said. “He had a very good spring at the corner position before we moved him. As a coach, you are evaluating players and you may have two or three at one position at the start of the spring. You say, ‘Boy, that might be one of our best 11 guys.’ So you kind of move them around and mix and match.
“We put him at safety, and he just looked like a natural. He made plays. In the spring game, he played safety and corner. That’s hard to do, especially for a young guy.”
Senior safety Demetruce McNeal, sidelined late in spring practice because of undisclosed off-field issues, has dealt with those issues, Malzahn said.
“He’s in good standing,” Malzahn said.
Malzahn wouldn’t say what the issues were that sidelined McNeal.
“They are between me and him,” Malzahn said. “They are taken care of.”
Auburn has had just one player chosen in each of the past two NFL drafts, but Malzahn said that is going to change.
“As far as a head coach, you want as many of your guys drafted as possible,” Malzahn said. “We recruit players that want to go to the next level. We feel great about our staff here. We feel great about the future. One thing you’ll see is each year we are going to have more and more guys drafted.”
Malzahn built his coaching staff with a distinct plan in mind. After watching them coach through spring practice, he said his staff came together in an impressive way.
“After a spring with our coaching staff, I am very impressed,” Malzahn said. “We have excellent coaches. They are all together on the same page. They are doing a very good job in the recruiting area also.”