The loss of Zeke Pike may have been softened this summer by the emergence of Jonathan Wallace, a Central-Phenix City product who has immediately established himself as the clear leader of the freshman class.
Wallace’s leadership has drawn rave reviews from both coaches and players in the first two days of Auburn’s training camp.
“You can tell coming in that he’s really mature,” Frazier said. “He’s really a professional on and off the field. He’s got good grades. He gets to meetings early. He’s a guy that a lot of the freshmen look up to just because of the way he conducts himself.”
For a young guy, Wallace has taken charge of the offense, and Gene Chizik said that the youngster spent a lot of his free time in the summer learning the playbook.
From the sound of it, Wallace arrived on the Plains more ready than anybody expected.
“Wallace, he really cares,” Clint Moseley said. “He wants it as bad as pretty much anybody I’ve been around. He’s definitely got the right attitude to play football at this level. He’s got it figured out already.”
- Clint Moseley said he feels a sense of urgency in the battle for the starting quarterback spot. “You mean is this it? Yeah, I guess so,” Moseley said. “But at the same time the same thing happened last year. Kiehl could get hurt Game 1 or he could not get hurt. The desperation is there. Yeah, there’s definitely a sense of urgency. I realize that my time is coming in a couple of years here at Auburn.”
- Scot Loeffler’s offense should be installed in full swing now that the Tigers have had a summer to study. “We’re a lot farther along,” Moseley said. “That was just an introduction in the spring. He wanted to go a lot more in-depth and a lot quicker in the spring. It being such a difficult offense to learn and that being the first semester, we weren’t able to go as fast as we wanted to.”
- Frazier and Moseley are once again splitting reps with the first team. “Me and Clint just switched off with the ones,’ Frazier said. “Jonathan Wallace really got all the blue group today. He just got here so he needs a lot of reps just to get comfortable.”
- The outlook in Frazier’s second season has completely changed. “Last year I wasn’t really expecting to go into the season playing as much,” Frazier said. “I knew I would have a role, but I knew I wasn’t really going to be competing for the starting job. This year I was really excited to get started today.”
- As a quarterback, Frazier is light-years ahead of where he was last year. “Really it’s just footwork and read,” Frazier said. “I didn’t do much of that last year in Coach Malzahn’s system. I kind of just did the read option. Really just overall quarterback play, Coach Loeffler has really helped me progress there.”
- He didn’t say it specifically, but Frazier hinted that a couple of freshmen are getting looks with the first team. “Ricardo Louis and Jovon Robinson with how eager they are to get in there,” Frazier said. “Last year I know I didn’t get any orange reps and those guys are getting in there trying to learn as fast as they can so they can be ready in September.”
- Gabe Wright is healthy again, but he knows the broken foot he suffered in the spring didn’t help his bid for playing time. “”Getting hurt is one thing… it just puts me way behind, and it’s not a place I want to be,” Wright said. “I’d say late June, early July, I could go 80-90, 100 percent. Rehab was pretty easy, because it was in a place where I could still work my thigh, my calf, my quad. There wasn’t something like a knee where I had to stay off of it. I could sit down and still get work done. It didn’t hurt me that much.”
- Physically, Tre Mason has transformed himself during the offseason. He’s visibly bigger in the arms and shoulders. “I reached my goal,” Mason said. “I’m at 205 today. I went into practice at 205. I feel like I’ve gotten a little bit faster and more explosive.”
- Mason added the weight to run more between-the-tackles. “I know that’s my role,” Mason said. “I’ve been doing that since high school. We ran the Pro-Style offense with a little spread in high school. I feel like I’m ready for this.”
- Brian VanGorder opened practice by lighting into the middle linebackers after they made a mistake. “Yeah, well, there’s a lot of responsibility as the middle linebacker,” Jake Holland said. “I’m used to it. Getting yelled at is part of the game, especially at my position. There’s a lot that I have to know, and there’s a lot that goes on that I have to lead.”
- Holland said senior Jonathan Evans has returned from the injury that kept him out of spring ball. “Jonathan Evans? Yes, he’s getting some reps,” Holland said. “I’m really excited to see what he’s got in store for us. He’s still – on the mental side of the ball – he’s still got to learn the defense. We all have to learn the defense, but he missed spring so he’s a little behind.”
- Evans is battling with redshirt freshman Kris Frost at strongside linebacker. “It’s still the first practice, but physically he’s gained weight,” Frost said. “He looks better physically. Like I said, mentally, we all still have a long way to go. We’re putting in a new defense.”