AUBURN, Ala. – Let the water-cooler talk and barroom debates begin.
Auburn’s quarterback position was a nightmare last fall, so it’s never too early to begin dreaming of who will fulfill the lead passer position in Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee’s QB-friendly offense in 2013.
The incumbent is sophomore-to-be Jonathan Wallace, a Central-Phenix City product who started the final four games and set an Auburn freshman record for passing efficiency (139.60.)
Another returner is junior Kiehl Frazier, Auburn’s 2012 passing leader with 753 yards in five starts and a disciple of Malzahn’s playbook at Shiloh Christian in Springdale, Ark.
Wallace and Frazier are joined by three new signees last Wednesday: Carver four-star recruit Jeremy Johnson, Garden City CC gunslinger and former Georgia defensive back Nick Marshall, and McGill-Toolen athlete Jason Smith from Mobile.
“We’re going to give all three of those guys a shot at quarterback, and they’re all very talented at that position,” Malzahn said on national signing day Wednesday. “As you’ve all seen in the past, the dual-threat type guys that can do a lot of different things – and keep plays alive – can be very successful with what we do.”
Malzahn referred to Johnson as “one of the centerpieces offensively” of this 2013 class, which includes Smith, three solid running backs and four more receivers.
“I think it’s perfect for Jeremy Johnson,” Fox Sports South and Scout.com national recruiting analyst Chad Simmons said of Malzahn’s offense.
“We saw last year, the personnel just didn’t work with what Scot Loeffler wanted to do with that offensive scheme. I’m not sure Johnson would have been good in that system either … when you have a kid like that who’s used to playing in that 4- or 5-wide, 1-back or zero-back offense, Jeremy’s good with mobility. If Jeremy ever was looking around, I think when Gus Malzahn got the job, his looking was done. He knows he’s a perfect fit for that system.”
Simmons went on to call Marshall a “high-risk, high-reward type of player”, referring to Marshall racking up both touchdowns and interceptions through the air.
“Nick’s one of the best I’ve probably ever covered from an athletic standpoint,” Simmons said. “He definitely as a quarterback will sling it around. In high school, some compared him to a kid like Charlie Ward – the type of kid that can run the ball, that can throw the ball, that can make all the different plays you look for in a quarterback. But he also has trouble reading defenses, and takes maybe a little bit too many chances than he should, trying to force the ball in there.”
And then there’s Smith, who was presumed to shift over to wide receiver near the end of his recruitment. But Malzahn explicitly referred to Smith as a quarterback multiple times Wednesday.
“He’s electric. He’s got phenomenal skills,” Malzahn said. “He can do a lot of different things. We’re very excited about Jason.”
Pro Day on March 5
Two weeks after they let scouts get a good look at their skills at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, former Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier, tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen and tailback Onterio McCalebb will do it again with some home-field advantage at Pro Day on Tuesday, March 5.
That trio will be joined by old teammates wide receiver Emory Blake and offensive guard John Sullen. It’s not yet known whether linebacker Daren Bates will be in attendance.
Lemonier has been projected to be drafted anywhere from late in the first round to the fourth round. Lutzenkirchen is looking to be taken in the middle rounds, while the rest of the ex-Tigers are holding out hope to hear their name called in the seventh round, or get a phone call in free agency.
Save room for seconds … and thirds
Ladies and gentlemen, start your metabolism.
Auburn Arena is running a promotion Wednesday night for the Arkansas-Auburn men’s basketball game, tipping off at 9 p.m. ET. For fans who purchase an “All You Can Eat” seat for $25 in the 200 level, unlimited concessions will be provided including hot dogs, burgers, nachos, popcorn, pretzels and soft drinks.
This is also an “All Auburn, All Orange” game, as fans are encouraged to wear orange. For those who watch from home, it will be televised by CSS.