Playing in the Southeastern Conference it is critical to go into games with a player who has the talent and mental toughness to get the job done at quarterback. If you don't already have one on the roster, finding that guy has to be the top priority in the signee class. Gus Malzahn added three players at the position for his first Auburn class and hopes that help is on the way.
It would be nice to have a quarterback like Johnny Manziel who consistently makes great plays game after game, but that is not necessary to be a successful team. What is essential is to have a guy directing the offense who won't get his team beat making a lot of mistakes when the football is in his hands.
He has got to manage the game properly and take advantage of what the defense is doing. Additionally, he needs to be a guy who rises to the occasion and makes big plays on third downs or fourth downs when a game is on the line.
In this era of college football I really like athletic quarterbacks who can cause problems for the defensive front with their quickness. It certainly looks like Coach Malzahn has the same idea because the three players he signed for that position are mobile and athletic. Each should be good fits for his spread formations.
The thing about quarterbacks is that you really don't know how they are going to perform in a major college setting until they get under pressure. The pressure that they get in high school is not the same kind of pressure that they are going to get in the SEC.
It is not only the pressure of playing the position that is a challenge. The successful quarterback has to have enough courage to be able to concentrate on what he has got to do to get the ball in the right place at the right time while being targeted by big, fast and tough defensive players.
When you win you get more credit than you deserve and when you lose you're going to get much of the blame if you are the quarterback or the head coach. You've got to be man enough to handle that.
Looking at Auburn's recruiting class, I think that all of the quarterbacks the Tigers signed have got a chance to get the job done. We don't know which one will emerge as the leader and the one that can handle all of the intangibles in playing that position. Obviously, all of them have their strengths.
The kid from Mobile, Jason Smith, is a great athlete and great runner, I don't know how you would rate him as a passer. We've seen Jeremy Johnson from Montgomery do it all and the kid from junior college, Nick Marshall, played some defensive back at Georgia after being an outstanding quarterback in the Georgia high school ranks. From what I understand he has got a strong arm, but there is a tremendous mental burden on that position so you just really don't know how he will play as an SEC quarterback.
Then you've got Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace returning and I expect both are going to be better than they were last year. I don't know how you could compare them with the guys the Tigers have got coming in because they haven't really competed yet, but I do know it could make for an interesting preseason when all five are on campus in August.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.