AUBURN, Ala. — Two and a half months ago, I wrote a column outlining the particulars of what quarterback Kiehl Frazier needed to accomplish in order to lead Auburn back to a New Year’s Day Bowl.
None of that, uh, went down.
Since Frazier and his replacement Clint Moseley couldn’t move the offense, it’s true freshman Jonathan Wallace’s turn. Frazier got to dip his toes in the kiddie pool in spring ball and fall two-a-days; Wallace did the same against New Mexico State, one of the softer D-I matchups one could ask for in a starting debut.
Of course, Clemson and Mississippi State didn’t treat Frazier nearly as kindly. And Georgia, well, isn’t going to take pity on the kid.
When you look at Frazier’s blueprint, it doesn’t change that much for Wallace. Let’s look back at Frazier’s tips, what he did with them and whether Wallace can handle them better.
From Aug. 24: “Run, Kiehl, run. If (offensive coordinator) Scot Loeffler lets him, perhaps Frazier will reach triple digits in attempts and flirt with 500 rushing yards.”
Uhhhh … swing and a miss, Brenner. He only had more than 8 rushing yards in one game, at MSU, and Frazier fumbled twice in that game. His season line is 40 attempts (including double-digit sacks) for minus-28 yards. Whoops.
Wallace, on the other hand, has gained 115 yards on 30 carries, a 3.8 average. Not too far off from Frazier’s 2011 output. There might be something there, if the scheme asks Wallace to tuck and run.
“Lead, Kiehl, lead. He clearly owns the respect of his teammates, and on Thursday Loeffler dared to drop the Tim Tebow comparison … as being part of an offense for all four years of eligibility.”
Loeffler compared Wallace to Colt McCoy, but fool me once, right? Consider this, though: teammates always gave Frazier polite testimonies, but they’ve been downright slobbering of Wallace, even weeks before he was even starting. Wallace’s leadership and intangibles are strengths.
“Learn, Kiehl, learn. Loeffler’s playbook looks like advanced calculus compared to (former OC Gus) Malzahn’s, of which Frazier was only asked to run a portion as a rookie.”
Not that Frazier didn’t know the playbook, but at least in one game, Loeffler was unafraid to let Wallace take shots downfield. With Moseley, they actually resorted to some pistol formations. We’ll see Saturday exactly how long Wallace’s leash is, against an incredibly formidable defense.
“Completion percentage. Throw the ball where your backs, ends and receivers can catch it, Kiehl.”
Frazier: 53.9 percent. Ugh. Moseley: 63.3 percent, but that’s all dinks and dunks (6.2 yards per attempt.) Wallace: 61.5 percent, and a much healthier 11.4 yards per attempt. Granted, that’s all against NMSU and in garbage time against Texas A&M, but results are results.
“Red-zone conversions. Don’t make Cody Parkey a busy man except on extra points, Kiehl.”
This was a debacle with Frazier — two touchdowns (none passing) in nine trips to the red zone. Moseley wasn’t much better, with three TDs in eight opportunities. Wallace is 4-for-6, including three of four against New Mexico State … which is actually relatively decent in red-zone defense.
“Third-down chances. Auburn was third and first in the SEC on money down in 2009 and 2010. Eighth last year. Your move, Kiehl.”
With Frazier at the helm, Auburn was 16-for-60 (26.7 percent) on third down. Moseley was just as poor at 9-for-35 (25.7). Wallace, conversely, is 7-for-16 — a much-improved 43.8 percent. Only Texas A&M and Ole Miss have better marks in the SEC over the entire season.
Once again, consider the opponents, consider the circumstances. But at least Wallace has earned this moment, his shot at Georgia and probably Alabama, with his on-field play.
Aaron Brenner, firstname.lastname@example.org