Joey Gatewood Leaves Team
Auburn backup quarterback Joey Gatewood has entered the transfer portal (photo: USA TODAY Sports)
Joey Gatewood joins a lengthy line of Auburn quarterbacks to leave coach Gus Malzahn’s program. It was initially reported that Gatewood was considering leaving and didn’t attend Auburn’s practice Tuesday. Following the loss to LSU, Auburn stuck with the typical schedule of taking Sunday off, but Malzahn granted a second day on Monday before the team hit the practice field on Tuesday. Apparently, Gatewood was a no-show.
At just 16, Gatewood committed to the Tigers and held firm to that commitment, despite interest picking up in the quarterback with the Cam Newton-like build and skill set. Gatewood wasn’t the starter at Bartram Trail, but his physical tools earned him an Auburn offer as well as a four-star ranking as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Gatewood redshirted in 2018 while sitting behind Jarrett Stidham. He appeared in the 2019 Music City Bowl, showing off his skill set against a hapless Purdue team that couldn’t stop Auburn all day. Then Gatewood battled the eventual starter, true freshman Bo Nix, well into this summer and fall.
From the beginning, Gatewood’s use was something of an interesting story. In his limited time, Gatewood was 5 of 7 passing for 54 yards and two touchdowns with 29 rushes for 148 yards and three touchdowns. Then Bo Nix’s first road start at Florida was disastrous as he threw three interceptions and was held to around 150 passing yards, raising questions about coach Malzahn’s game plan.
The turning point was likely the loss to LSU as Auburn had a goal-to-go situation and Gatewood was clothes lined by Malzahn as he ran onto the field and held back. The play was a quarterback draw, and Nix was stuffed for a loss. The sequence of events was criticized heavily in the following days.
Nix’s performance at Florida could be explained away as the struggle of a true freshman in a hostile road environment, but Malzahn promised that going into the LSU game that the team was prepared for another tough environment. Instead, Auburn had four false starts and a snap over the head of Nix. That bad snap led to another center change in midseason, something that has become a staple of the Malzahn era.
Along the way, Nix became completely lost in the passing game, which led media and fans to question just how bad Gatewood had to be throwing the ball not to get the nod for more playing time. When asked if a quarterback change had been considered, Malzahn was emphatic that it had not. Following the game and his comments, it seemed to be inevitable that Gatewood would follow the path of almost every backup quarterback coached by Mahlzahn.
There are some common themes over the years. The first is that Malzahn refused to open the playbook for his backups when they made rare appearances. In addition there’s the knock over the years of backups not being unable to absorb the playbook.
Transfers are becoming more and more common under the new transfer rules, and they seem to be becoming the norm at Auburn and other schools.
Alabama, Georgia, and Clemson, to name a few, have had a revolving door at quarterback. The difference is that their transfers have left the respective programs to become starters elsewhere, although there have been some exceptions.
What is dissimilar is that the transfers from these schools become better off at their new location, For example, Justin Fields and Jalen Hurts are in Heisman contention. Meanwhile, their replacements are playing at high levels, even as true freshmen. None of this has happened under Malzahn.
It has become old news that Malzahn has yet to recruit a player and competenly develop him into a legitimate quarterback. Furthermore Malzahn cannot keep quarterbacks on campus. With the exception of Chris Todd, Cam Newton, Nick Marshall and Jarrett Stidham, all of whom were transfers, the following quarterbacks recruited by Malzahn had limited success:
- Barrett Trotter: Cam Newton’s backup was named the starter in 2011 but was replaced by Clint Mosely. Trotter came into the bowl game against Virginia and was stellar. He called it quits as a player after that game.
- Clint Moseley: Replaced Trotter for about half the season in 2011. When Malzahn took over in 2013, Moseley quit football altogether.
- Kiehl Frazier: Highly touted prospect, USA Today player of the year. He was the 2012 starter but threw just two TD’s and 12 interceptions. He made the move to safety when Malzahn came to town and eventually transferred to Ouachita Baptist.
- Jeremy Johnson: Nothing needs to be said about the story of Jeremy Johnson.
- Sean White: Much the same story as Johnson, however, White was dismissed from the team.
- Zeke Pike: Four-star recruit, had many run-ins with the law. Never saw the field for Auburn and transferred to Louisville where he became a tight end.
- Tyler Queen: Three-star recruit, battled injuries, never played for Auburn and transferred to West Georgia. Like Pike, he elected a swap to tight end.
- Jason Smith: Four-star recruit, went the JUCO route, moved to WR where he wasn’t a factor in his time at Auburn
- Woody Barrett: Four-star dual-threat recruit. Never played for Auburn and now is a backup QB at Kent State.
- John Franklin, III: Battled for the QB spot, made a few starts. Was ultimately not the runner many hoped he would be and was a complete liability throwing the ball. He has made his way in the NFL by playing defensive back.
- Malik Willis: After being good as Jarrett Stidham’s backup, many believed that the reins would be handed to Willis. He looked every bit the player that Nick Marshall was, but his second year as backup was plagued by Malzahn’s complete mistrust of him. When Nix and Gatewood battled it out for the starting position, Willis transferred to Liberty.