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November 24, 2012

Fired-up Wallace demands self-improvement

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Few terms on how his true freshman season unfolded pleased Jonathan Wallace.

When a little time passes and the Central-Phenix City product reflects on the good parts of this season, he will smile. Despite starting only the final four games and running the Wildcat offense sporadically in the five games before that, Wallace grew in bunches as a passer.

He’ll also find himself splattered all over Auburn’s freshman passing record-books. His 139.6 passing efficiency is the highest for a rookie with at least 50 attempts in school history, edging Jason Campbell’s 132.41 rating in 2004.

Wallace’s 46 completions, 80 attempts, 720 yards and four touchdowns each place him comfortably in the top five of all those freshman single-season categories.

Of course, the vast majority of that success happened against Texas A&M in mop-up duty, lowly WAC member New Mexico State, and FCS foe Alabama A&M.

The tape will show Wallace and the Tigers’ offense did not score a point in his two SEC starts Georgia or Alabama – in fact, Auburn never cracked the 40-yard-line on Alabama’s side of the field.

Wallace, nursing an ice pack around his right elbow (an injury he doesn’t expect to be serious), was disappointed with how it turned out. In fact, for a first-year player, he was downright defiant.

“This year is more of a motivation for the offseason,” Wallace said. “We had a bad year. Now we’ve got to do something to change it. I really believe a lot of guys are going to buy into this thing and we’re going to get this thing rolling.”

Asked if his teammates concur, Wallace said, “Oh, definitely. It only takes one guy. Whether it’s me, whether it’s somebody else – somebody’s going to step up and take that role, and we’re all going to go that way.”

Wallace was 5-for-14 in the first Iron Bowl he ever attended, getting picked twice, sacked twice, and amassing 71 yards through the air.

“We just didn’t finish on a lot of things, and that was the result,” Wallace said.

Lauded all year for his work ethic, his determination and overall intangibles, Wallace didn’t mince words when disclosing what he needs to improve to keep the starting quarterback job for 2013.

“Everything,” Wallace said. “I’ve got to get bigger. I’ve got to get a lot smarter. Everything. Everywhere. Not only me, a lot of guys. We’ve got to grow up and develop to the players we want to be.”

Without the benefit of bowl practices this December, and the possibility of coaching changes, Wallace faces an even steeper climb to rapid development.

“It’s going to start in the offseason, paying attention to small details,” Wallace said. “That’s where it starts in every program, and buying into what our coaches want us to do. It goes from there.”

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