As the summer rolls around and we are all sweltering in the sun, longing for the beautiful colors of fall to begin to show, it just wouldn’t be normal without a quarterback controversy at Auburn. It’s kind of like getting gas after eating at Denny’s, or rain showing up in the Sahara desert just because I declared I wanted to play golf on that particular day, or celebrity couples getting divorced, it’s just an inevitability that we Tiger fans have just gotten used to the last few years.
This year it’s different than the last few years, because we actually have some hope. We all knew Gus Malzhan would be bringing high caliber talent to the Plains, because we all know that elite QB’s will line up to play in his system. If Gus is successful, you can bet the farm that every single year we will have 4 and 5 star quarterbacks from all over the country clamoring to come to Auburn dreaming of being the next Cam Newton.
This year’s crop could just be the beginning of Auburn being known as Quarterback U, instead of our former nickname, ‘Running back U’. I am reminded of how many RB’s we sent to the NFL in the 90′s, not to mention how many were successful. When was the last time a school had 2 RB’s drafted in the 1st round in the same year? Hell, there was a time when Auburn University had Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Brandon Jacobs all in their backfield at the same time. That is ridiculous.
The same type of elite power could be in our future, if Malzhan’s success is as I believe it will be. Kids want to go where they can be exposed to national media, have gaudy stats, contend for titles, and play against the best. Auburn, with some time to recover from the Chizik mess, will certainly be able to offer all of that.
We have several names coming to the Plains that could very well be the next elite QB that stuns the nation, or it could be nothing. We all know that how many stars you had by your name means absolutely jack squat after signing day. Trovon Reed was a 5 star. How’s he done? Lots of expectations, very few results. Last year’s Heisman winner? A 3 star. An interesting stat I heard when I was watching the Pro Bowl in 2009. How many former high school 5 star recruits were playing in the game? Answer: ONE. Derrick Brooks. How ’bout that!
Anyway, all this blather from me is leading down to one thing, my opinions of this year’s crop of Quarterbacks. Pros, cons, and my best realistic guesses on what to expect. We don’t have a lot of information on anybody, either a high school career or a few games of work at the most. Quite frankly, all any of us can do at this point is guess. So, with that being said, here are my guesses:
I still believe Kiehl has the athletic tools necessary to be an elite quarterback in the SEC. The big question is, does he have it between the ears? He’s a smart kid, he understands the offense, but he doesn’t seem to be able to handle the pressure of being a starter. A lot of his between the ears problems I attribute DIRECTLY to his HORRENDOUS mishandling by Gene Chizik and his staff. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Chizik screwed him up royally. He should have been starting the entire second half of 2011, gaining the experience he needed, preparing for the future, and making the mistakes he was making last year with an entire offseason to look at them, learn from them, and get better. But because of Chizik’s short-sighted and amateurish managment of the team, Frazier was thrown into the fire with a far inferior team last year, his confidence was shattered, and in my opinion, never really got a fair shot. I don’t know if he will ever be able to recover, and I don’t know that we’ll ever see the player that he could have become, thanks to Chizik’s foolishness. That being said, in my opinion, he’s got the best shot. It remains to be seen as to whether or not he can capitalize.
Pros: He knows Malzhan’s system better than anybody. He’s been in the system the longest, he’s been at Auburn the longest, he’s an upperclassman, and he has experience.
Cons: He’s had a shot and hasn’t capitalized before. The fact that he has all of this going for him, and he has NOT emerged from Spring practice as the clear frontrunner speaks volumes. Wallace is hot on his heels, if not dead even with him, and he hasn’t stepped up and FORCED Chizik to conced the spot to him.
Conclusion: He just might not be good enough mentally. He might not be tough enough between the ears to handle the job. Of course, we once said that about Jason Campbell, and we were happily dead wrong. For Kiehl’s sake, I hope we are.
He took the reins during last year’s disastrous season, and while he wasn’t able to win, he was able to drag the team up to a couple of respectable showings. A lot of people fell in love with him, thinking he was the second coming. You have to remember, he was filling in for CLINT FREAKING MOSELY. Hell, I could have gotten a better response than Mosely did. I personally think there was a lot of ‘at least he’s not Mosely’ going on there. From what I saw of Wallace, he was an average on his best day Quarterback that was an above average athlete, and well above average on mental toughness and leadership. He took a bad team that didn’t believe in anything and at least got them going again. Honestly, if Auburn had a Frankenstein department and could graft Wallace’s head on Frazier’s body, I think we’d have our QB.
Pros: He’s very tough mentally, a VERY good athlete, and has proven he has what it takes to be a QB in the SEC. I’d like to see what he could do with a little bit of team around him.
Cons: Despite his atleticism, his QB skills are average on his best day. We don’t know how he’ll do in Malzhan’s offense, but I suspect he’d do fine. He doesn’t have Frazer’s knowledge or experience in Malzhan’s offense, though.
Conclusions: I don’t believe he’ll be the starter. I don’t believe he’ll play QB at the next level, and I think as a QB in the SEC, he’s a solid backup and nothing more. Frazier has a better chance than he does, although I do like the kid, respect his mental toughness, and definitely believe he is an asset to the team.
Welcome to Auburn, Mr. Football. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s athletic, and he’ll redshirt. No chance of being a starter with the crop we have there now. Also, Gene Chizik was a functional idiot when it came to managing personel, Malzhan is not. He knows that Johnson is the QB of the future at Auburn, and he’ll more than likely save him a year with a redshirt. Unless he comes into practice and is just a world beater, he’ll spend a year carrying a clipboard and learning, which is exactly what he should be doing. Of course, if he DOES turn out to be a world beater, I know Malzhan isn’t afraid to start a true freshman. He isn’t Chizik. The best player will play, which is how it should be. Will that happen, I doubt it. But it COULD happen.
Pros: He has every single athletic tool necessary to be a future superstar. He was a winner in high school, with gaudy stats and doesn’t appear to be a troublemaker.
Cons: He has ZERO experience. He could be Tim Tebow or Johnny Manziel, or he could be Trovon Reed or Ryan Leaf. We’ll never know until he shows up. True freshman as special as the ones I listed are as rare as a shooting star shaped like a 4 leaf clover. They are out there, but it doesn’t happen much.
Conclusion: El Redshirto. No starting job, no playing time this year. Watch out for the future, though.
I’m inclined to be optimistic about Marshall simply because the last JUCO quarterback we picked up, although I can’t quite remember his name, seemed to do OK. Of course, I am trying like hell to reserve judgement because Marshall has a lot of ‘flavor of the month’ stench about him. Everybody is remembering that ex-JUCO guy and getting excited, but people are forgetting that the first time he was in FBS he didn’t make it as a QB. They forget that he threw 20 interceptions last year. There’s a lot of question marks about this guy, whereas when that other JUCO guy came to Auburn, what was his name? Rhymes with Spam? When he came there was ZERO questions about his on-field JUCO performance. He was a world beater that won the JUCO national championship while making defenses look stupid. The only reason he didn’t get a shot at Florida was because he was behind that Tebow guy. Marshall doesn’t have that.
Pros: Lots of athletic tools. Experience. Maturity. He’s been THE MAN on his JUCO team and has proven he can handle starting.
Cons: Unproven in the bigtime as a QB. Lots of interceptions last year. Past character problems although they seem to be behind him. Lack of experience in Malzhan’s offense compared to Frazier.
Conclusion: It’s between him and Frazier for the starting job. If he’s got it between the ears, and picks up the offense quickly, I think he could be the man, and I think he could be good.
It’s a coin flip right now between Marshall and Frazier. Frazier is better on paper and knows the offense better, but the fact that he’s not wowing right now speaks volumes and he is most definitely vulnerable. Marshall could most definitely capitalize on that vulnerability if he shows up and looks as good as people think he can. Wallace is a close third behind those two, with Jeremy Johnson bringing up the rear. I can tell you, though, if no QB steps up to be a star this year, Johnson will be squarely on the radar next year.
Any way you slice it, though, there is a lot of hope for the future. War Eagle!!