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December 9, 2012

Brenner: This might be Shiloh Southeast, which makes Kiehl Frazier an early favorite to return as starting QB

AUBURN, Ala. –Here’s a to-do list for Robin Williams.

1) Grow a beard, quickly.

2) Fly to Atlanta, take the Groome Transportation shuttle direct to Auburn.

3) Ask the nearest official in the football facility to show you to the film room, where Jonathan Wallace will undoubtedly be found studying tape (now that final exam week is over.)

4) Have a seat.

5) Soothe young Wallace: It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

It’s not your fault.

Look, it’s not like Wallace was put on this earth to run Scot Loeffler’s offense. He wasn’t. Neither were Kiehl Frazier or Clint Moseley.

All tried it. None executed it — Auburn scored 81 points in eight SEC games, and its average of 235.1 yards in conference games were lowest in all of Division I. In a related story, Loeffler and the previous assistants are now polishing resumes.

The Tigers desperately needed to get back to a spread offense. Hiring Gus Malzahn to replace Gene Chizik emphatically proved that.

But the subsequent appointment of Rhett Lashlee (or Gus Jr., if you will) — which in hindsight should have been more blatantly inevitable — hammers it home.

This is the Gus Bus. Those who possess a very particular set of skills in this scheme will thrive. Those who don’t, well, there’s the door.

Say hello to Shiloh Southeast.

Lashlee has never managed a major-college offense before, but starred at the small parochial high school in Springdale, Ark., and is now Malzahn’s protégé, his right-hand-man, his finest student of the hurry-up no-huddle. What makes you think Frazier won’t be given every opportunity — repeat: every opportunity — to similarly shine?

College football is not fair. It is a business. Auburn did and should do what’s best for Auburn.

It’s just ironic that we’ve reached this point where Kiehl Frazier will be given every opportunity to become a star … because of Kiehl Frazier’s crumbling-star act a few months ago.

It wasn’t all Frazier’s fault. But let’s face it, he operated Loeffler’s traditional playbook about as well as he could run a 10K in high heels … even though he was the presumed guy throughout spring, summer and early fall.

When the season ended two weeks ago, I assessed the 2013 starting quarterback question as follows: four-star recruit Jeremy Johnson, 40 percent chance. Wallace, 30 percent. Junior-college transfer to be named later: 29 percent. Frazier or Moseley: 1 little percent.

Now? Is it insane to call Frazier a mortal lock?

Frazier, like Wallace, is a great kid with athletic potential who needs the right situation. He just wants to play football, in the SEC or anywhere else.

Barrett Trotter chose not to play his senior year because of a change in offensive philosophy. Gotta wonder if Moseley, a strong-willed vocal leader and decent game manager, will ponder the same route.

On the surface, shouldn’t Wallace be given a fair shake? To be fair, he was baptized by blowtorch by the two teams that dazzled in the SEC Championship Game and may well be the top two squads in the country.

No, Wallace wasn’t a Shiloh Saint. But he, too, ran Malzahn’s go-go-Gadget-go offense from afar at Central-Phenix City, and Malzahn was instrumental in recruiting Wallace to the Plains before he left for Arkansas State. The locker room, at this moment, belongs to Wallace, starter of the four most recent games.

Hate to portray Frazier as the villain. It can’t be overemphasized that he’s a quality kid. But this smells like a sports movie to me.

How does it end for Wallace? “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” with him bucking the odds?

Or are we looking at Good Will Hunting?

Aaron Brenner, abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

12 Comments

  1. Not so fast my friend. Most folks assumed that Kodi Burns would trump Franklin’s Chris Todd during Gus’ first year on the plans, but Todd got the job. Gus didn’t trust Kiehl to pass the ball during his last year on the Plains. Kiehl will get another look, but Gus needs to succeed. If Wallace looks the best, he gets the job. If Jeremy looks the best, he will.

    Comment by Tex — December 9, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

  2. One hopes they’ll both be evaluated fairly by the new staff. Both were forced into offensive schemes they couldn’t thrive in, so perhaps it comes down to how they otherwise responded: leadership, play-making ability, work ethic. Let’s hope Wallace is given every chance to win the starting spot, and then, as they say, may the best man win.

    Comment by Simmons — December 9, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  3. I definitely disagree that Frazier is the leader in the clubhouse right now. I think there is much too much emphasis put on the systems run in offenses, and much too little emphasis put on the tangibles and intangibles of being a QB.

    There are four main reasons Kiehl Frazier has not had any success as a QB so far:

    1) Frazier is wildly inaccurate.
    Explanation: Some of the passes Frazier threw this year were some of the worst passes I’ve seen from an FBS division QB. Five or sIx feet over an open receivers’ head will not get the job done. Multiple times every game, you could look on the faces of the receivers and see their frustration. Wild inaccuracy translates into a terrible TO ratio and teams can’t win when they are losing the TO battle.

    2) Frazier does not like to take a hit.
    Explanation: Frazier was up-front with the media that he does not like to run the ball in his freshman year. He joked about only making one or two tackles in high school. Additionally, he never wanted to scramble up the field when in trouble this year. I think all this adds up to a player who does not like to take a hit. (I know that no one WANTS to take a hit, but I saw a hugh difference in Wallace’s willingness to stick his head in there and get hit and Frazier’s).

    3) Frazier has an extremely long release.
    Explanation: Even when Frazier makes a quick decision, he has a very, very long release. This makes WR screens much easier to defend, and it makes over-the-middle throws very risky propositions. Again, this leads to many interceptions, and a horrible TO differential.

    4) Frazier does not have any improvisation skills.
    Explanation: Good/Great QBs make something out of nothing. This never occurred with Kiehl Frazier; many times, he even looked out of sorts when the pocket wasn’t collapsing.

    In summary, these factors far outweigh his ties to a high school or his comfort with a certain kind of system. Can he win the QB battle? Definitely. Ahead, of Wallace right now. . . not at all.

    Comment by Adam — December 9, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

  4. …..I think Gus is definitely going to pick the guy that gives him the best chance to win. One need look no further than the 2009 preseason to see that. Chris Todd was on the shelf after surgery. In the A-Day game, Kodi Burns was something like 3 of 8, short-hopping quick screens, or sailing them to the bench. Neil Caudle was more accurate, but had an alarming rate of firing right at defenders.

    …..I left that A-Day profoundly depressed about the QB spot. Despite not playing in the spring, Chris Todd won the job in fall camp, and he was definitely NOT Gus’ Arkansas guy!

    …..I have to agree with a lot of what Adam posted above. I think Wallace has the best shot to win the starting job, but I think we’ll need him to show a bit more accuracy than he showed against Georgia and Alabama down the stretch. Frazier will basically have to reinvent himself to compete, or he’s looking at transferring down, or moving to another position.

    Comment by Acid Reign — December 9, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

  5. Frazier was a highly effective wildcat QB running the ball in 2011. He didn’t look like he minded taking a hit then. His “wildly inaccurate” arm produced the best TD pass of the 2012 season, in the opening game against Clemson.

    Gus knows it’s important to win. The spring practice and fall camp will show him which QB gives us the best chance to win. My money is on Frazier rising to the top, but the job will be open. Whoever wins it, wins it.

    Comment by MikeP — December 9, 2012 @ 7:37 pm

  6. KF problem is not athletic in nature. He clearly has all of the measureables. His problem this past year, and the year before, is that he can’t handle the pass rush, and make good, timely decisions. It shows up in his accuracy, and his mechanics fall apart. Keep in mind that he played in 2011 under Gus and looked horrible that season. I hope that he pulls it together, but unless they go live in spring ball with the QB’s, and let KF practice like it is a real game, he more than likely wont get any better. Wallace has shown the ability to think and make good decisions under pressure, and that is why I think he will probably be the starter. Clint has no chance. I look for us to go for a JUCO QB to add depth. I really hope that we dont get 2 weeks into fall practice and we still dont have a decision at QB.

    Comment by Bob — December 9, 2012 @ 10:01 pm

  7. While all the comments above about who ultimately ran the offense in Gus’s tenure as OC are right on target, don’t forget that Chizik still held about 51% of the voting power. While we don’t really know what went on behind closed doors, you can bet they didn’t always see eye to eye on who would start. Starting now, you can count on the fact that Gus will have 100% of the vote because no way will Lashlee rock the boat. If Frazier has an ounce of confidence left, I sure hope it shows next spring.

    Comment by Ralindon — December 9, 2012 @ 10:20 pm

  8. Mr. Brenner,

    I enjoy your writing a great deal, but I thought this article was pure conjecture on your part and not worthy of your previous work. Your assumptions about Coach Malzahn are not based on any knowledge, but on your prejudices. I believe Coach Malzahn will choose the best quarterback no matter who it turns out to be. I see no reason to accuse him of playing favorites when he has no track record of doing so. I also thought your assumption of a 6-6 record for next season was way off base. Coach Malzahn is going to surprise you in many ways.

    Comment by Scrambledog — December 9, 2012 @ 11:35 pm

  9. I have to say, I like Aaron’s writing so much in large part because of the conjecture! Keep it up, my Broncos brother!

    Comment by Simmons — December 10, 2012 @ 12:09 am

  10. Wel conjecture is like pooting in the wind. Means nothing. The so-called experts do not nake for reality, never have do so.

    The guy getting that million dollars makes the decisions, we can guess and put our two cents in but we don’t know diddly compared to the guys geeting the big bucks and this proves true every year.

    Who thought Texas AM qb would be Heisman? Raise your hands ESPN experts. Who thought Auburn number one in 2010? Again raise your hands experts.

    Perhaps the qb will be the new qb from Carver?

    Comment by wt — December 10, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

  11. The media sports guys think that because they made Frazier a 5 star player then that is the gospel.

    Frazier may in reality be a 3 star and I remember when a qb for Auburn was not really recruite, Damien Craig and turned out well.

    The so-called experts know about as much as the average Joe.

    Cody Burns did not get the job because quite frankly, he was too small, but still a good player. the sports folks want coaches to play who they want and if they dont they question the coach’s decision making.

    Comment by wt — December 10, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

  12. Conjecture = analysis = commentary. I’m okay with that, regardless of what you do in the wind.

    Comment by Simmons — December 10, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

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