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August 6, 2013

Rhett Lashlee: Quarterbacks ‘are bringing themselves along nicely,’ but battle still far from over

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Rhett Lashlee isn’t Gus Malzahn.

For media members and an Auburn fan base interested in finding out more about the team’s four-way quarterback battle, that’s a good thing. Malzahn has been tight-lipped about the race during interviews following each of the first three days of fall camp. Lashlee had no such issue on Monday. No, the Tigers aren’t any closer to naming a starter. However, the offensive coordinator did admit that newcomers Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson haven’t quite “caught up” to Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace — yet.

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee lent some insight on how the team's quarterback battle is shaping up. Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson are still working to find the same comfort level as veterans Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace. But the newcomers are closing the gap quickly, Lashlee said. (Photo by Todd Van Emst)

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said quarterbacks Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson are still working to find the same comfort level as veterans Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace. But the two newcomers are closing the gap quickly, Lashlee said. (Photo by Todd Van Emst)

“You’ve got guys that got 15 days in the spring and the majority of the summer, but I will tell you this — I have been pleased with both (Marshall and Johnson) for their attention to detail and willingness to do extra to try to catch up from a mental standpoint,” Lashlee said. “All four have done some good things athletically out there and made some good throws. Mentally, as far as the system goes and understanding things with the speed, you’re going to be a little bit behind. That doesn’t have anything to do with the race. I think those guys are bringing themselves along nicely.”

The coaching staff has been able to gather “some good information” after four days of camp, Lashlee said. The hardest aspect, not surprisingly, is one that Lashlee and Malzahn brought up on multiple occasions prior to opening camp: making sure each candidate gets enough reps.

“I think we have been able to do that though,” Lashlee said. “We have thrown a lot of balls in the last four days. You can tell there is great carryover from the older two guys that were here in the spring and the younger two guys are real eager. “

Giving each quarterback his fair share of reps isn’t easy. That’s why the Tigers have had to get creative in the way they divvy the snaps during practice.

“So maybe you split those up to have two guys going at one time to try to be more efficient with your time,” Lashlee said. “More than anything you’ve got to plan your practice out to make sure you’re not overlooking a situation that one guy is getting reps in and another is not. They need the reps, really all four of them, to learn the system and improve. We need reps to see how they react in certain situations.”

The quartet is showing signs of improvement each day, with Lashlee noting the last two practices have been particularly fruitful.

“They are starting to grasp the system enough that they can play ball a little bit and they’re not thinking as much,” he said. “They’re still thinking in some areas, but they’re getting closer to where I think they can turn it loose and do what they’re capable of.”

But bigger tests are on the horizon. The Tigers will put on full pads for the first time on Tuesday. Lashlee also said a scrimmage will likely take place soon.

That will probably occur Wednesday, when the team goes to practice at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time this fall.

“The next four or five days, which is going to be about six or seven practices, I think a lot of information could come our way then,” Lashlee said, “and that will be big.”

Lashlee also acknowledged the mistakes the signal-callers had made during the first few practices. Yes, some of them were mental miscues on the quarterback’s part. But Lashlee said the turnovers haven’t always been the quarterback’s fault, either. That would be taking credit away from a defense Lashlee said has been “flying around” since fall camp opened, after all.

Obviously, Lashlee isn’t pleased with the turnovers. No coach would be.

He just knows expecting perfection from four different players is an absurd notion.

“Often times (the turnovers) have been more mental, like it was maybe his first rep live ever with that play,” Lashlee said. “Things are going to happen like that. The positive is that very rarely have we made the same mistake twice.”

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