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August 17, 2013

Auburn football: Gus Malzahn says team is closer to naming starting quarterback

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn gets closer to naming its starting quarterback each day.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn observed quarterbacks Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson from the sideline on Saturday. He hoped the different vantage point will aid in narrowing the starting quarterback race. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn observed quarterbacks Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson from the sideline on Saturday. He hoped the different vantage point will aid in narrowing the starting quarterback race. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

Head coach Gus Malzahn said Saturday there was still a bit farther to go, however. Though the Tigers chose not to hold their scheduled scrimmage, the coaches were still able to run quarterbacks through specific drills that will factor into the final decision.

“We put them in some blitz pickup situations. We did 7 on 7,” Malzahn said. “We ran our offense from the sideline and started to try to be as game-like as possible.”

Malzahn said he and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee changed their perspective on Saturday — literally. Normally, the two line up behind the quarterbacks during practice and monitor their every move. To keep with the “game-like” feel they wanted, Malzahn and Lashlee watched from the sideline.

“We wanted to see how they reacted, just with the way they handled their teammates, the way they handled calling out different things and all that,” he said. “We learned a lot today.”

Senior fullback Jay Prosch said it has helped offensive flow working with only two quarterbacks this week, as Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall have received all the snaps with the first-team offense. Jonathan Wallace is still in the running for the starting job, according to Malzahn, while Kiehl Frazier decided to move to safety last Sunday.

“It helps a lot,” Prosch said of the narrowed race. “Either way we’re still going to be doing the same thing no matter who is at quarterback, but it’s nice to have a few guys you feel comfortable with back there.”

Tight end C.J. Uzomah said working with fewer quarterbacks has made it easier for receivers, too.

“We know how each quarterback throws and the timing,” he said. “Having that narrowed down, (we have) been able to say on this route where the ball is going to be (and) how fast it’s going to get there.”

Uzomah said Wallace has the best grasp of the offense — specifically “the protection and things” — after having an entire spring to learn Malzahn’s system.

“Nick and Jeremy, they’re kind of rusty with the offense in general, just because they’re not familiar with Coach Malzahn and the offense,” Uzomah said. “However, you know, they make plays with their legs, and they have the ability to extend the play. I think all three of them have that, but I think they all kind of have their different niche.”

Which one will fill the niche as the Tigers’ starter?

Malzahn said he will sit down with Lashlee and try to get that settled Saturday afternoon.

“We’ll see where we’re at,” he said. “We’ll come up with a plan leading up. We understand we’d like to name the starter sooner rather than later.”

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