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August 4, 2012

Late-night notes: Chizik, Loeffler say there’s no separation in the quarterback race

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Despite the suspicions of the media and most Auburn fans, the Tigers are holding steady to the party line when it comes to the race for the starting quarterback job.

As far as the coaches are concerned, they say, it’s a dead heat between Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley.

“It’s too early to say that it is,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “We’re still in the installation phase. Typically, you have a better idea as you get farther along when you’ve installed a good percentage of your offense, and we’re not there yet.”

For his part, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler echoed Chizik’s comments, saying that the Tigers are too busy working on the offense to worry about who’s going to start at any position, including quarterback.

“No separation between either of them,” Loeffler said. “It’s too early in install to make any evaluation with that whatsoever. As we get later in the camp, when installation is done, we’ll be able to assess exactly where we’re at.”

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  • Loeffler, like everybody else in the program, is happy with freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace. ” I love him,” Loeffler said.  “Great mentality, he’s a winner, he’s leaning. For a young guy, being able to pick up the verbiage, and being able to communicate, walking into the huddle for the first time – he’s done a good job.”
  • Loeffler has been pleased for the running backs. “We’re stronger, we’re leaner, we’re faster and they’ve done a great job,” Loeffler said. “I’m really happy with the work that they put in in the summer time.”
  • Eric Mack’s still out, and Gene Chizik was noncommittal on whether or not the guard, who was wounded in the June 9 shooting that claimed the lives of three men, will be back. Chizik said the team is monitoring Mack’s situation.
  • John Sullen is still not available to practice.
  • Chizik had praise for one wide receiver. “I think Trovon Reed is coming along. Quan Bray has done some nice things. We have to have them all step up. Sammie has to step up, Jaylon Denson has to step up. Ricardo Louis has to step up. Melvin
    Ray…” he said before mentioning that all the receivers are learning.
  • Jake Holland is still learning the intricacies of being the defense’s unquestioned leader. “It ebbs and flows,” linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen said. “Some days are good and some days are bad. He’s just got to get used to, he’s the guy on the field and we can’t line up without him. He has to make the calls, and some days are really good. Some days are just OK.”
  • Cassanova McKinzy has been impressive at middle linebacker as a true freshman so far. “Cassanova, we’ve been pretty pleased with his progress,” Thigpen said. “He’s physical and he can run. You can see why he’s a highly recruited kid. He’s got a lot to learn though.”
  • Thigpen wants to see a “change in culture” for Auburn’s linebackers, referencing Takeo Spikes and Tracy Rocker (who was a defensive lineman). “They had that swagger, and that’s what we have to have,” Thigpen said. “Change the culture means when you walk on the football field you’re taking control of it. You’re taking control of the defense, and then you’re making plays when you’re out there. So that what it means by changing culture for us. We’ve got to come in, and we’ve got to change the system inside and out to give ourselves a competitive edge.”
  • Kiehl Frazier says he played some safety in high school, but his only responsibility was to make interceptions. If a big back broke through the line, what would he do? “Let him go,” Frazier said with a smile.
  • Frazier doesn’t think Auburn will be focused on just one or two pass-catching options this season. “I think there will be a lot of distribution this year,” Frazier said. “Lutz and EB, of course they’ll get theirs. But there’s a lot of guys coming up and stepping up that will get more touches this year.”
  • Having Jay Prosch in the backfield is helpful for the quarterbacks, too. “Any time Jay’s on the field, as a quarterback I’m definitely a lot more comfortable,” Frazier said. “I know no one’s getting through wherever Jay’s at.”
  • The offense’s installation has gone well in recent weeks. “I think they’ve approached this really well,” Clint Moseley said. “They’re not overloading us with just a ton of information. I think they’re coming close to that happy medium with the perfect amount of offense.”
  • Moseley also said he and Frazier have been communicating well, despite the battle for the job. “Out there, Kiehl and I are communicating. I’ll double-check with him on a play,” Moseley said. “He’ll double-check with me. We’re really focusing on the physicality of the running game right now. Coach Loeffler wants us to be better leaders. We’re just trying to get the other guys going.”
  • Kris Frost came into the interview room wearing pajama bottoms. “This is how our lives are during this time of the year,” Frost said. He also is starting to feel more comfortable in the defense. “”Finally, today, I felt like I did a lot better than I’ve been doing.”
  • For Frost, the key is to slow the game down. “Right now, I’m doing my best to just be patient, calm down and listen,” Frost said. “I’ve been so excited to get out on the field that sometimes I get out there, and I’m too excited. I just need to calm down and relax and think about what I’m supposed to do.”
  • And finally, Daren Bates is on board with Thigpen’s charge that Auburn’s linebackers need to be tougher presences on the defense. “I feel like it has to come from within, to be tough,” Bates said. “You have to have that edge to play hard and go hard and do what you have to do to win. It’s nothing you have to practice. It’s just something you have to do.”

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