BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. – There’s not much separation between junior Kiehl Frazier and sophomore Jonathan Wallace, as coaches continue to play down the derby for starting quarterback this spring.
Both players are staying confident, cautiously.
“It’s a lot different knowing the confidence level that I have and knowing that I can go out there and play,” Frazier said after Saturday’s scrimmage, which was closed to the public and media. “The guys around me, they believe in me and that they believe every time they run a route, they believe I’m going to get the ball to them.”
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee all but guaranteed Friday a starter would not be named at the end of the spring, preferring to let both players continue to develop.
“Of course, that’s what coach Lashlee wants us to do,” Wallace said. “That’s what we have to do, and I think I’m doing fairly well with it right now. There’s a lot that I’ve got to work on for us to be a threat on the offensive side of the ball. I think I’m doing well.”
Individual drills have been picked down to the most basic of fundamentals as Lashlee re-teaches the quarterback position, and focusing solely on the reading and throwing aspects. Scrambling has not been emphasized, even in scrimmage situations.
“You can’t really work on the quarterback runs,” Frazier said. “If you can’t get tackled, you’re not live, then it’s harder to kind of work on that.”
Let me take that: Joshua Holsey, Chris Davis, Jonathon Mincy and Jonathan Jones are getting tired of hearing about how they had zero interceptions all last season.
They’ve made a fun-loving game of it in practice simulations.
“I got a pick on Kiehl. He owes me 20 bucks,” Holsey joked. “Told him he was going to give me another one before we get over with in spring.”
New cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith has a lofty goal for his unit.
“He’s like, ‘We’re going to lead the SEC in picks this year.’ That’s his goal,” Holsey said. “It’s surprsing that we really didn’t get a lot of interceptions last year, but it’s just how it rolls sometimes. It’ll be a different story this year, I promise you that.”
Justin time: For the second straight day, ‘star’ safety/linebacker Justin Garrett earned the praise of a coach for his physical prowess he’s bringing to the defense.
“Garrett made a couple of big hits again,” Malzahn said, echoing defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson’s compliments from Friday. “He’s setting the tone for the defense. We need more guys playing like him.”
Even if Garrett’s mates are mimicking his improvement, they’re noticing it.
“He came out this year with heart,” sophomore cornerback Jonathan Jones said. “Every practice, you can see it from drills to scrimmage. He flies around with passion and you can definitely see his love for the game. He set the standards high for the rest of us.”
Turns out he’s got an undisclosed injury, as tight end Brandon Fulse said Mason was “limited” Saturday.
While Malzahn didn’t specify Mason’s absence or status, he highlighted the added opportunities for Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant.
“They’re getting to understand our blocking schemes better. It takes awhile,” Malzahn said. “But they both had good ball security and that’s what you’re really concerned about as a coach this time of year.”
Reed out, Blackson in: Defensive tackle Angelo Blackson was back in uniform after missing time during the week due to injury, but wide receiver Trovon Reed wasn’t present Saturday.
“He had some things he had to take care of family-wise, but it wasn’t any kind of negative reason or anything,” Malzahn said. “He had to take care of some business.”