It was seven years ago when the Arkansas Offensive Coordinator witnessed a junior high school kid play quarterback. And even then Gus Malzahn knew that the young man was going to be a special player.
The prep star went on to lead his high school team to three State Championships, being named the game MVP every year. By the time he graduated from Shiloh Christian in 2010, he had made high school All American, was named by the state papers as “Mr. Arkansas Football,” and declared by USA today as the “National Offensive Player of the Year.’
Malzahn, who coached at Arkansas, Tulsa, and Auburn during that time developed a close relationship with the 6’3″ 220lb. five star recruit; and in February 2010, Kiehl Frazier signed to play for Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers.
It seemed like the perfect fit for Frazier. He had never played football in anything but the Malzahn spread. In fact, his high school coach, Josh Floyd, was a Malzahn protégé and the first quarterback Gus coached when he was a high school head coach.
That was 2010. Fast forward to 2012 and the coach that Kiehl Frazier came to Auburn to play for, is back coaching in his home state of Arkansas.
For the first time in his life he has had to learn a new offense – a pro style offense. And more than that, he has had to learn to not try to do every thing on his own.
That has got to be foreign to him. Kiehl is the type quarterback more akin to a Dameyune Craig or a Cam Newton, than a pocket passer and game manager. He is used to putting the team on his shoulders, making plays out of nothing, and carrying his team to victory. Now he has to learn to stay in the pocket, check down on his receivers, plant his feet when he throws, and manage the game.
How’s that working out for him in his first year as a starter?
Not so good as he is ranked the No.12 QB in the SEC with his team at 1-2 and facing a tough SEC schedule. Kiehl is still a very talented and athletic player but its apparent he is a square peg being forced into a round hole.
Much has been made the last couple of weeks about what some see as Kiehl’s lack of confidence in tough game situations.
While I admit that Frazier has appeared at times to have had that deer in the headlights stare – I believe its because he has never played from a pocket, checking down on receivers, enduring a rush, and at the same time trying to watch his mechanics in the passing game.
After all he came to Auburn to play in a Malzahn offense that he had played in since Jr. High. If Auburn was still running it, he would be awesome. Maybe even Cam like. We got a glimpse of that Saturday when he was scrambling with seconds to go before the half, almost went down (put his hand on the turf) recovered and flung the pigskinl 50 yards to Sammie Coats who caught the ball in the back of end zone for a touchdown.
For Frazier to be successful, he has to be allowed to make plays – to be himself.
You don’t have to run a Malzahn type system for that to happen. Vince Young at Texas was a phenomenal star who was allowed to be himself, scrambling and making plays out of nothing. Michael Vick at Virginia Tech was another. Both of those teams used running plays and the zone read for their athletic quarterbacks without having to switch to a spread offense.
Instead of the new OC expecting his quarterback to change, it might be best for Frazier and the entire offense if he would find ways to take advantage of Kiehl’s strengths. In short, for the sake of Frazier’s career and the success of the Auburn offense …
Let Kiehl be Kiehl.