QB Competition Continues At Tuesday Practice

A report on Auburn's football practice features news, notes and comments from the offensive coordinator on the quarterback competition.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers put on the full pads Tuesday for a practice at Jordan-Hare Stadium that included situational scrimmage work the day after Kiehl Frazier exited the competition to be the starting quarterback.

Offensive coordinator and QB coach Rhett Lashlee said that it is too early to count sophomore Jonathan Wallace out of the mix to be the starter even though head coach Gus Malzahn said on Monday that newcomers Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson will split the first team reps in practice this week.

"Really, we have still got three guys we are looking at," Lashlee said. "We feel very confident. We know what Jonathan can do at this point from the spring and from the first two weeks of fall camp so we were honest with him and those guys that we were going to let the two new guys (get more practice reps) this week instead of splitting it three ways."

Rhett Lashlee

The coach said he will be looking to see which quarterback takes command on the field and earns the respect of his teammates. Lashlee also said that ball security is a major issue, too, at the quarterback position.

Lashlee said the coaches are also looking for a guy they can trust to execute the game plan each week "and play within the system."

Malzahn noted the sooner a starter can be named at quarterback the better. "We don't have a date, but the quicker you can decide the quicker you can move on to preparing for your opponent and you can prepare for maybe getting that continuity together."

The Tigers used four quarterbacks in the scrimmage part of the practice with the three scholarship players and walk-on Tucker Tuberville all getting snaps. Frazier saw plenty of action at his new position in the secondary at safety.

"We feel like had four for a good while," Lashlee said. "Now we are at three and I will say this about Kiehl Frazier. You talk about a young man who loves Auburn. I am not sure if I have ever been more proud of a young person I have coached than I am of Kiehl right now."

Gus Malzahn talks to his team on Tuesday at the stadium.

On Sunday the former quarterback told Lashlee and Malzahn that he would move to defense to help the team after it looked like he was not in serious contention to be the starter job he had to open the 2012 season. Frazier got only limited worked in Saturday's major scrimmage.

Commenting on playing the quarterback position, Lashlee said, "When you win you get way too much credit, and when you lose you get way too much blame. He went through some stuff that not a lot of people go through and I couldn't be more proud of last spring--especially this summer and fall camp the way he responded to those scenarios.

"Then at the end of the day he just came to us and said, ‘Hey, I want to help this team win.' He said it was more important to him that Auburn get back to where he wants Auburn to be when he came here. I think that was a pretty selfless act. I want to make sure I said that."

Lashlee said he also likes how Wallace has reacted to being put on the backburner of the quarterback competition. "Jonathan is a winner," the coach said. "He is responding right now just like I thought he would. He understands it. He is always ready and when he does get reps, like he got some reps today, he is ready to take advantage of it.

"He has done what you would want an older guy to do," the coach said. "He has been encouraging them. He has been a perfect team player and I know that he is ready and we will start to maybe adjust those reps accordingly throughout the week as we need to.

"We just told him going into this week, ‘We feel like we've got a pretty good grasp on what your strengths are and what you can do. You are not out of it. You are still going to get plenty of reps. Just hang in there for the next couple of days. These two guys are going to get the bulk of the reps. We've got to see how they respond.'"

With newcomer Johnson being just a couple of months removed from finishing at Carver High in Montgomery, Lashlee was asked if there is apprehension about the possibility of gong with a true freshman as the starting quarterback.

"I think any time you play a guy that is either a true freshman or a guy that doesn't any of that experience, you're always going to be a little anxious to see how they respond.

"It's one thing to do it in a live scrimmage situation where is controlled or in a practice where they have orange jerseys on, athen you put 90,000 people in the stands. How are they going to respond?"

Nick Marshall is a junior who spent his freshman season at Georgia playing defensive back and his sophomore season playing quarterback at Garden City Community College in Kansas.

Lashlee noted he wants a quarterback who can stay even-keeled when things are going well or poorly. "I think a lot of our job is to put someone in there that is ready in fairness to whoever that becomes," he said. "We have got to feel like we are doing the right thing by them that they are ready to handle that."

Lashlee said he is seeing progress from the new QBs with practicing at the tempo the coaches want. "Not only are you asking them to learn a new system and learn reads, but you are asking them to do it at warp-speed. They have picked it up well.

"As a matter of fact, I would say the last five or six practices I don't think we have had issues with communication or anything like that or tempo. You would have to go way back for me to even remember that being an issue. I think it is more now about the execution and the finer details."

In other news and notes:

*Defensive end Dee Ford is sidelined from practice this week and is wearing a knee brace after being hurt in the second scrimmage. AU's coaches have not said when the senior will be ready to return to the practice.

*Lashlee had praise for a pair of freshmen who have performed well in practice. Both tailback Johnathan Ford and slot receiver Marcus Davis were summer arrivals who have already positioned themselves to be in the mix for early playing time.

"You can tell that playing quarterback in high school helped him," Lashlee said of Davis. "The game doesn't move too fast. He has got the great attitude. He is what we wanted, what we thought. He will be pushing to get in the mix."

Marcus Davis is from Delray Beach, Fla., where he was a standout QB the past two seasons. Davis is shown at Tuesday's practice.

Commenting on Ford, Lashlee said, "Him and Corey Grant bring a lot of the same thing. They are really fast guys. Corey is bigger, he is a junior and has been in college longer." The offensive coordinator noted that with more time in AU's strength and conditioning program the 6-0, 186 Ford will be able to 10-12 pounds of additional muscle that will help him as a football player.

*Another freshman receiver who has a chance to play early, Tony Stevens, is back at practice after being out of action with a hamstring problem last week. Lashlee said "the jury is still out on him." The coordinator added, "We do feel good about him moving forward in the future. We feel that he is exactly what we thought he was when we recruited him, but in fairness to him he is going to need more reps between now and then for us to know for sure."

*Lashlee said the Tigers have three good options to play right tackle with redshirt freshmen Avery Young and Shon Coleman competing with sophomore Patrick Miller, who finished spring drills No. 1 on the depth chart at the position. "All three of those guys have really come along and gotten much better," he said. Young opened Saturday's major scrimmage with the first unit.

*Junior "star" rover Justin Garrett, who injured a foot on Saturday, is expected back at practice later this week.

*Commenting on Tuesday's practice, Lashlee said, "We really focused on blitz situations. We did some pass skel and some seven-on-seven stuff. Then we put the ball down and we let either our younger guys, or some guys we needed to get more information on, play a little bit. It was much shorter than our first two scrimmages have been.

"We held a lot of our older guys or guys we felt like we already had all of the info on them or know what they can do," Lashlee noted. "It was by no means a full scrimmage compared to the first two."

*The Tigers practiced twice on Tuesday, but will not have their next on the field session until Thursday.

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