BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. – This is the second of a three-part series through Monday, revisiting the past month in Auburn spring football and taking stock of valuable developments.
Adopting the style of WarEagleExtra.com’s popular “7 at 7” features, let’s go through seven bullet points of what you need to know about the Tigers’ quarterbacks, offenslive line and special teams.
We learned the quarterback has to play in a two-minute offense, but the decision on who that’ll be will resemble a 14-play, grind-it-out marathon to the end zone.
Here’s what we know: every time head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, who will impart a very specific set of skills on all their quarterbacks, were asked about the QBs’ progress, they resorted to vague statements indicating slight progress in their abilities but none in the individual battle.
Here’s what we can reasonably infer: junior Kiehl Frazier and sophomore Jonathan Wallace, who each started and completed four games last season, are good guys who want to get better and will roll with the punches of re-learning an offense they mastered in high school.
Here’s what we don’t know: because Lashlee was politically correct in never once identifying one guy ahead of the other throughout spring, is that a bad sign that neither candidate has what it takes to separate himself?
Here’s what we know: Jeremy Johnson, Nick Marshall and Jason Smith will be on campus very shortly to fill out the quarterback pool.
Here’s what we also know: Nineteen weeks until the Washington State opener. Don’t hold your breath on Auburn naming a starter.
We learned where there’s uncertainty at quarterback, there is chalk on the offensive line. Left tackle? Greg Robinson. Center? Reese Dismukes. Right guard? Chad Slade. Duh, duh, and duh. Right tackle looks like Patrick Miller, though Avery Young will get a chance to win the spot back once his shoulder’s totally healed; but honestly, J.B. Grimes can’t go wrong with either of those guys over on the right side.
That leaves left guard up for grabs. John Sullen graduated, so who replaces him? Jordan Diamond got the first crack, then Alex Kozan seemed to hang onto the job for most the spring, though Devonte Danzey got a look late. Kozan’s probably the pick. Offensive line requires chemistry and continuity, and Grimes must be very pleased it’s been a relatively drama-free spring selecting his starting five.
We learned Cody Parkey can’t just cruise into his senior season. A 75 percent career kicker, he really struggled in the fast-paced field goal fire drill sessions we saw. A couple times, I saw Parkey with a forlorn look on his face on the sideline moments after missing a 45-yarder or so. Because this coaching staff tends to brandish a go-for-it mentality, Parkey will have to prove he’s reliable enough from well outside 40 to get the nod when those tough decisions come up in October.
We learned there’s a really good chance Wallace has become the wild playmaker/play breaker, and Frazier has evolved into the safe-guarded game manager. Why? Well, could be Frazier’s gun-shy to draw the boos again after making mistakes, and Wallace figures he’s got nothing to lose but flinging it out and seeing if he can hit the home run. Wallace was explosive yet precarious on A-Day, while Frazier took what was given more often.
We learned Shon Coleman’s more determined than you and me. Debilitating injury and illness – not least of which is cancer – has derailed careers on so many unfortunate occasions. Yet there’s Coleman, backing up Robinson at left tackle and deadset on finally suiting up and maybe appearing in his first college game after beating leukemia in 2010.
We learned punt and kick returner is, uh, a couple of jobs up for grabs. Tre Mason, Corey Grant, Ricardo Louis, Trovon Reed, Quan Bray, Jonathan Jones, Jonathon Mincy, Chris Davis, Robenson Therezie … I mean, I think I saw Aubie out there shagging returns a few times this spring.
We learned Frazier and Wallace don’t hate each other’s guts.
Well, to be fair, we knew that already.
“We are good friends off the field, and it’s competitive on the field,” Frazier said. “I’m rooting for him to do well, but at the same time everybody wants to be the starter. But that’s not really something we focus on. We’re just focusing on getting better this spring.”
Wallace pointed more to the journey both young men continue to plod, since they know whoever ends up taking control of this offense will face a restless fan base in the fall.
“It’s been a lot of work. A LOT, a lot of work,” Wallace said. “We’ve been able to get a lot of reps, and everything. We’re different guys. Of course, the receivers run different routes, the backs, one may be faster than the other. But overall, we were able to have some type of competition as well and push each other. That was good this spring.”