A Quarterback Battle for the Ages?

By Posted on: February 11th, 2013 in Football 13 Comments »

If you like quarterback battles, this is your year. Last Wednesday only added to the intrigue over who will line up under center for Auburn this fall.

The race is the most wide open in recent history, and that’ saying lot considering Auburn goes through quarterbacks like Don Draper goes through cigarettes.

Gus Malzahn is keeping any thoughts about the position close to the vest, but he did make it clear that JUCO signee Nick Marshall will have a shot.

“He’s one of those impact players who throws the ball extremely well and has a very strong arm,” Malzahn said on Signing Day. “We feel like he could come in here and give us a chance right off the bat.”

Malzahn began chasing the three-star dual-threat quarterback last year while still at Arkansas St. After leading Wilcox County (Ga) to a state championship, Marshall signed with Georgia as a defensive back in 2011.

Despite playing 13 games as a freshman for Mark Richt, things went south fast, when he was caught up in an off-field incident involving theft of another student. He was quickly released by Georgia and spent this past year in junior college in Garden City, Kansas.

Marshall’s coach this past year, Jeff Tatum, strongly defends his former player.

“What the Georgia coaches told me was he was a kid in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they had to do something, but they didn’t want him to have a bad name,” Tatum told al.com. “That’s one of the reasons Coach Ledford (Marshall’s high school coach) brought him to me, a chance to clear his name without somebody always bringing it up.”

Of course, Marshall will have to compete with incumbent Jonathan Wallace and Malzahn disciple, Kiehl Frazier. Throw in four-star signees Jason Smith and Jeremy Johnson, and suddenly A-Day becomes damn interesting.

Before we discount Smith and Johnson because they don’t arrive until summer, let’s not forget that a red-shirt freshman won this year’s Heisman. The days of sitting are over for those who are ready.

It was widely assumed that Smith would play wide receiver, but Malzahn’s signing day tweet that called him a quarterback changed all of that.

“We are going to give all three of those guys a shot at quarterback,” Malzahn said. “They are all very talented at that position. The dual threat kind of guys that do a lot of different things and keep plays alive can be very successful in what we do.”

It seems Marshall has the best shot of unseating Wallace. Talking with Pat Dye last weekend, he says the coaching staff is high on the Georgia native.

Then again, hearing and reading about Wallace’s solid work ethic, it’s hard to imagine him getting beat out this spring. Let’s not forget, he ran the spread while in high school. Malzahn’s offense is not exactly foreign to the Phenix City native.

We know one thing. It certainly has to get better. Nobody is expecting Cam Newton to come through the doors again, but fans are looking for a leader.

Something tells me we’ve found him. Now he just has to step up.

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  1. DBAU81 says:

    My money is on Wallace. He is light years ahead of Frazier in the maturity and mental toughness departments. The others are unknown quantities at this stage. Marshall is intriguing, but it’s hard to imagine that either Johnson or Smith could seriously contend for the job this year without arriving on campus early and going through spring practice.

    • sullivan013 sullivan013 says:

      I agree. I was most impressed with Wallace’s intangible qualities – poise, elusiveness, ability to create something positive out of a broken play. In addition to his arm and obvious physical abilities, these same qualities took Cam Newton from great to spectacular. They’re what make Johnny Football effective as he was last year. Don’t underestimate that first step away from a blitz. The ability to elude the rush is often the difference maker between a long drive to a score and a punt.

  2. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    I see Smith as a wild cat QB/slot receiver. Perhaps he will be what Trovon Reed was supposed to be. Bet they redshirt Johnson this year so that he can continue to bulk up and get more acquainted with the offense. As for the rest I see the lineup being 1. Wallace 2. Frazier 3. Marshall. Wallace is simply a gamer and will out compete the others; Frazier has been in the Malzahn system his whole football life, so that leaves Marshall as a solid third string option. The future of the QB position at Auburn is bright!

  3. KoolBell KoolBell says:

    Great read Jay,

    I see Marshall and Wallace fighting it out till the very end with one not being named until 10 days or so before our first game. I think Marshall is in school until May, so he won’t report until June for summer workouts. That gives Wallace a tremendous edge.

    One thing is for sure, it will be interesting.

    The one with the most upside is Jeremy Johnson. Man can he play, and he has an above average arm already. Strength, touch, and precision this kid has it all, if he can decipher SEC defenses he’ll be a superstar.

    • Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

      If we don’t have a starter named until 10 days before our opener, I think that he have wildly overestimated the talent and potential at QB. I hate it when they wait until the last minute to name a starting qb…it almost never bodes well for the season.

      So far, I like Wallace, but he’s a known quantity. It will be interesting to see what comes out of Spring Practice.

  4. AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

    I’m thrilled over the stockpile of talent.

    Love Johnson’s potential and Wallace is the sentimental favorite – but Marshall has maturity, and if all other intangibles are equal, he’ll win the job.

  5. War Eagle Girl War Eagle Girl says:

    My sentimental favorite is Kiehl. I was definitely impressed with Wallace and his poise but I think Malzhan will give Kiehl as much chance as possible. Do y’all just think he is damaged goods and can never get past the debacle of last year?

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Jury’s still out for me. But if anyone can rehab/resurrect his career it’s Gus Malzahn. Remember the difference in Chris Todd after Malzahn got to The Plains?

  6. Todd92 Todd92 says:

    I will be surprised if the starter is someone other than Wallace or Frazier. Marshall will need to be a quick study to catchup…. Same for Johnson plus the added pressure of adjusting to the college game. If I had to bet on it Johnson redshirts Marshall gets reps as a wildcat change of pace and the starter is Frazier.

  7. autgr4life says:

    The main thing to remember is we will still only have two QB’s going through spring drills. So if the starter is anyone other than Frazier or Wallace then it will be late into fall camp before a starter is announced.

    I do feel that people are underestimating how much just being comfortable in an offensive system can help a QB’s confidence. I would not be surprised at all if Frazier comes out as the starter next fall, with that being said I can also see Wallace coming on strong and being named the starter. Marshall is the real wild card here. I can see him coming in and really challenging Frazier and Wallace. If it was not for his interceptions last year I would say he would be the favorite over Frazier and Wallace to win the starting job, but on the same note it is not like Frazier or Wallace really took care of the ball last year either.

    I think that Johnson will need some extra time to learn the system and like some others have said most likely be red shirted this year.

    I think Smith will make the move to receiver and could very well start at that position this year and make a huge impact.

  8. aubb says:

    how many years of eligibility does marshall have? I feel bad for frazier but i just dont think he has it.

  9. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    I would love to see what Kiehl could do with a real QB coach to develop him like Malzahn or Lashlee but the main thing is to get a QB that can lead the team in getting the W’s. I hope he’s the guy.

  10. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    Personally, I don’t think we have any idea what Wallace and Frazier are truly capable of. Our previous coaching staff didn’t do them any favors. They are at least two years behind where they should be in development. With Malzahn back and with Lashlee and Craig on board, I look for those with Malzahn type system experience to have an advantage. Kiehl Frazier may yet get the reps he needs to develop. He is still trying to make the monumental leap from 1A Christian high school QB to SEC QB. Even under the best of circumstances this doesn’t happen over night.Wallace seemed to show remarkable resiliance and calm under tremendous pressure. I look forward to seeing what Lashlee and Malzahn and Craig can do with him.