BY AARON BRENNER | email@example.com
AUBURN, Ala. – Kiehl Frazier had his pick of several mentors and other trusted members of his support system during the most melancholy six months of his life.
Down the stretch of a dismal 3-9 season in which he lost his starting job, it was then-offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.
“Even whenever they put Clint (Moseley) in, when they put Jon (Wallace) in,” the junior quarterback said, “he said, keep your confidence. You can be a good player.”
Once the offseason began, Frazier’s father, Robin Beach, and high school coach, Josh Floyd, did their best to champion his spirit.
“He says, you’re a winner,” Frazier said of his dad’s repeated message. “You’ve been a winner your whole life. So you can still be a winner. Go be a winner.”
Recently, a fellow classmate has filled that role as well. Every time he enters Jordan-Hare Stadium – which he did for the first time in spring practice pads Saturday – Frazier walks by a statue of that famous student.
“Cam (Newton) would be around all the time, and now he’s here at school,” Frazier said. “He’s like, forget about last year. This is the offense I did well in, you can do well in it too.”
It was small-school Arkansas competition, of course, but Frazier wasn’t named USA Today’s National Player of the Year for his polite demeanor. It’s hard to say whether Frazier forgot who he once was – a blue-chip product deemed the future of the program, the heir to King Cam’s throne – but getting benched after just nine woeful halves of football had to chip away at his confidence.
“No. It hasn’t,” Frazier insisted. “I know I can be a good quarterback in this league. It’s just something that I’ve got to step up and do it.”
Frazier said he never considered transferring. But when head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee were summoned back to the Plains less than ten days after the firing of their predecessors Gene Chizik and Loeffler – who favored a slower, traditional pro-style attack – Frazier couldn’t help but beam.
“This is an offense that I’m a lot more comfortable with,” Frazier said. “Really, when I got recruited, this is what I was expecting to run what I got to Auburn. So it’s good to get back to it.
“It’s going to be fun.”
Sophomore Jonathan Wallace, the only other scholarship quarterback in spring practices, played in a similar spread attack at Central High School in Phenix City. He and Frazier are re-learning their comfort level, after a year in a completely different system.
“That’s the thing about it, we have to be fast,” Wallace said. “That’s why (Malzahn’s) putting the emphasis on it. That’s going to be our edge, playing fast and doing things right. We’re not fast enough right now. We’re going to get there.”
During his first meeting with reporters since Oct. 6, the day he lost his starting job at halftime of a Week 6 home loss to Arkansas, Frazier’s three buzz words Frazier were “mental toughness” and “confidence.”
“It’s definitely been tested. I’ve never won only three games in a season in anything,” Frazier said. “You never want to sit on the bench, especially if your team’s losing. I had to grow mentally, and my confidence just had to stay.”
These days, while Newton finishes off his degree during his offseason from the Carolina Panthers, the former Heisman Trophy winner makes a point to chat with a younger version of himself.
While Newton hasn’t been available to reporters since his return to class, Frazier estimated they see each other “2-3 times a week”.
“Every time,” Frazier said, “he’ll say, hey, you know what, keep your head up and keep going.”