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August 19, 2013

Auburn football: Jonathan Wallace ahead of Jeremy Johnson in fight for backup QB spot

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — The competition to be Auburn’s starting quarterback is over.

Auburn's starting quarterback race has eliminated one candidate, as Kiehl Frazier voluntarily decided to move to safety. Head coach Gus Malzahn said Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall will split snaps with the first-team offense this week. (Photo by Todd Van Emst)

Jonathan Wallace (front left) is slightly ahead of Jeremy Johnson (back left) as they continue to battle to become Nick Marshall’s backup at quarterback. (Photo by Todd Van Emst)

But the battle to be first in line behind Nick Marshall may have just started.

Head coach Gus Malzahn hinted at Jonathan Wallace having a slight edge in the competition following Sunday night’s practice.

“He will be the next guy in if something were to happen to Nick,” Malzahn said. “We have a lot of confidence in him, and his teammates do, too. He understands the offense and he understands the complete playbook.”

He put true freshman Jeremy Johnson nearly neck-and-neck with Wallace, a sophomore.

“I’m not going to say 3, maybe 2A,” Malzahn said of Johnson’s place on the depth chart. “He also really impressed us. He’s got a lot of physical tools. He understands how to run a fast-paced offense because he did it in high school, and really impressed us and did a solid job.”

Malzahn didn’t say when he hoped to come to a decision. At this point, he feels fortunate to have two quarterbacks (Marshall and Wallace) he trusts can get the job done when they are on the field.

Johnson isn’t far from reaching that point, either.

“It’s a great luxury to go into the first game with a guy we have confidence in, that if he goes into the game, he’s going to be able to get everything right and execute,” Malzahn said. “I think we’re in really good shape right now going into the season. Like I said, Jeremy Johnson, if he keeps improving, he can be ready also.”

Malzahn couldn’t say enough good things about Wallace and how he handled himself during the race. The head coach has seen the Phenix City. Ala., native improve since the spring, forcing Marshall to up his own level to earn the starting job.

Given the respect the coach has for Wallace, it was difficult to break the news he would begin the season as a backup.

“He’s a class young man (and) he handled it like a champ,” Malzahn said. “I know he’s probably hurting, but you wouldn’t know that. He’s very supportive of Nick, and that helps our team.”

Marshall agreed, noting Wallace had offered his assistance every step of the way.

“Me and Jonathan, we’re cool,” he said. “And he just told me, basically, if I need help with anything, just come to him and he’ll help me with it.”

Malzahn said the coaching staff will continue to take its time with Johnson, especially since a redshirt could be in the offing. And if that happens, Malzahn said, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. If that’s the case, it meant Marshall and Wallace avoided injury.

Still, it’s a bit too soon to make a final call on whether Johnson will sit out this season.

“We’re still bringing him along,” Malzahn said. “He’s going to get reps in practice and he’s going to understand what happens. He made it interesting. It’s very hard to do for a true freshman to make it interesting, but that says a lot about him.”

One thing Johnson won’t have to do is join the scout team. Malzahn unequivocally ruled that out, saying the Montgomery, Ala., native will dress and travel to every road game this fall.

“He’ll be with us every practice, and he’ll get some reps,” Malzahn said. “Like I said, one guy goes down, then you’re one play away. We’re going to keep him ready.”

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.”

August 14, 2013

With quarterback career behind him, Kiehl Frazier embraces new role at safety ‘100 percent’

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Kiehl Frazier isn’t sure when it happened, exactly.

Kiehl Frazier won't be throwing passes anymore, as the former quarterback made the decision to move to safety earlier this week. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

Kiehl Frazier won’t be throwing passes anymore, as the former quarterback made the decision to move to safety earlier this week. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

The precise date and time, in this case, isn’t important. It’s the thought that counts. And at some point before Auburn’s fall camp began — maybe two weeks prior, Frazier believed, give or take — it started to cross his mind he might not be cut out to be a quarterback. Yes, the same player who started the first five games at quarterback last season for the Tigers and returned as the team’s leader in passing yardage (753) no longer considered himself fit for the position.

He trudged on nonetheless, competing with the other three signal-callers — Nick Marshall, Jeremy Johnson and Jonathan Wallace — fighting to win the starting job. But when Frazier met with head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee on Sunday to discuss how the reps would be split at quarterback for the coming week, the junior knew it was the right time.

“We kind of came to a mutual decision that it would be best for me and best for the team to for me to move to safety,” he said after the announcement first surfaced on Monday. “That’s something that I’m really going to embrace, and going to try to have fun with and try to help the team out.”

Frazier didn’t break the news himself; that was Malzahn, who was the first to meet with reporters following Monday’s practice. He said the move was an idea Frazier came up with on his own

The coaching staff played no part, aside from ceding to his wishes to shift to safety.

“I go way back with Kiehl relationship-wise and have a lot of respect for him,” Malzahn said. “He wants to do whatever is best for our team and we need help back there.”

Frazier was the first to note how confounding it appears to those on the outside. Take a quick look at his resume coming out of high school in Springdale, Ark., stuffed to the brim with quarterbacking feats. The accomplishment that stands above the rest reads, “USA Today’s National Offensive Player of the Year,” which Frazier captured in 2010.

Three years later, he’s a safety.

How does that happen?

Cliche as it sounds, Frazier said his heart wasn’t in it anymore.

“It was just something that I’ve been contemplating and thinking about,” he said. “I think I did well enough to put myself in a position to be the quarterback, but that’s something I felt like you have to be all in, 100 percent.”

Anything less than full commitment, Frazier said, would be unfair to his teammates. That’s why he’s focused on working his way into the rotation at safety, which he played in high school.

“Some schools even wanted me to play safety in college — a lot of West Coast schools and Northeast schools,” he said. “So it’s something that I’m familiar with, not that I’ve played it a lot. There’s going to be a transition period, but something I feel that I can do very well at.”

He’s already found a mentor in Kodi Burns. The former Tiger went through a similar position change himself four years ago, moving to wide receiver after Chris Todd was named the starting quarterback. And Burns flourished in his new role, contributing to Auburn’s national-title winning squad in 2010.

What was the best advice Burns imparted upon him?

“Just make the best out of any situation. Do what you want to do,'” Frazier said. “Football isn’t forever — what I’m doing right now is what I’m getting my education in. It’s something I feel like I can do well in. Whatever I do, do it to the fullest.

Aside from picking up the defense’s schemes and calls, a few other alterations had to be made. He changed his equipment, and decided to add a visor to his helmet “to try to look cool out there.” Jersey No. 10 went out the door as well. Since linebacker LaDarius Owens already had the number, Frazier changed to No. 25.

Following his first practice at safety Monday, Frazier was pleased with his performance.

“That was my first time hitting in practice and being physical and being live for real,” he said. “So I thought it went really well.”

Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has already talked with him, Frazier said, happy to welcome an addition at safety, one of the thinnest units on the team.

Johnson’s counterpart, Lashlee, still couldn’t get over Frazier’s altruism when he met with media members after Tuesday morning’s situational scrimmage.

“I’m not sure if I’ve ever been more proud of a young person I’ve coached than I am of Kiehl right now,” he said. “Because you know, when you look at the quarterback position, I tell those guys all the time it’s unfair, but it’s reality. When you win, you get way too much credit, and when you lose, you get way too much blame. He went through some stuff that not a lot of people go through, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

The adversity Lashlee was alluding to shouldn’t be difficult to discern. He was referring, of course, to the struggles Frazier and the Tigers went through in 2012, when they limped home to a 3-9 record. Throwing his old coaching staff under the bus or regretting last season? Not Frazier’s style. He admitted he felt comfortable in then-offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s scheme at the outset of last year — it was something he had been training for his whole life, after all, back when he was still set on being a quarterback. But as the season started to unravel, his confidence and comfort level began to wane.

Now 2012 is nothing more than a teaching tool for Frazier and the rest of his teammates who returned this fall.

“I didn’t play well last year and that’s something that’s kind of set in stone,” he said. “I can’t go back and change it. … Everything that happened last year, I wouldn’t take it back because that’s something that the team learned from.”

Despite the hard times last season brought, Frazier said he never thought about quitting. It’s the same mind-set that helped him reach his decision to switch to defense.

That’s why Frazier didn’t contemplate transferring, either.

He loves Auburn — everything about it — too much to leave.

“Whenever I committed to Auburn, I committed for four years, maybe five — however long I stay here,” Frazier said. “I love the city of Auburn. I love the college.  And no matter what we went through last year, it was a learning experience. But my love for Auburn never left.”

Auburn football: Rhett Lashlee looking to see if Nick Marshall or Jeremy Johnson is ‘even-keeled’ leader Tigers need

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Rhett Lashlee’s job got a little easier Monday.

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Tuesday he’ll be looking to see how quarterbacks Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson respond to adverse situations during their time working with the first-team offense at practice this week. (File photo)

Charged with divvying up the reps at quarterback, Auburn’s offensive coordinator had his problem cut in half; instead of splitting the snaps four ways as the case has been since fall camp opened, coach Gus Malzahn said newcomers Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall would be the only signal-callers working with the first-team offense this week.

The other two candidates for the position went separate ways. Jonathan Wallace will continue fighting Johnson and Marshall for the job, while Kiehl Frazier bowed out of the race, deciding to move to safety for the good of the team.

With Marshall and Johnson now taking center stage, Lashlee tossed out various scenarios the pair will be put through this week as the team tries to move closer to making a final decision.

“How do they respond during ones-on-ones?” he said following Tuesday morning’s practice. “How do they respond when good things happen, when bad things happen? When they get more reps, do they continue to get better, do they stay the same and plateau out? Those are all things we’ve got to see and we just can’t see it if you’re rotating three or four guys.”

Though each has his own strengths and weaknesses, Lashlee said the signal-callers are similar enough no changes have to be made to the offense.

“We’re running the same plays with all three of the guys that we’re still rotating in there,” he said. “Each one of those three guys probably does things a little bit different, but right now I don’t think there’s any part of the offense that we could or could not run with either Jeremy or Nick over the other. They could fulfill the same role for us.”

Marshall specifically has done a good job with his decision-making during practices and scrimmages, Lashlee noted, as the junior college transfer’s eye-popping interception total (20) from last season stands out. The key to cutting down on those mistakes, Lashlee said, is simply attention to detail.

“You have to discipline yourself to make that a habit,” he said. “It’s not something you can just think about every now and then. You have to make it a habit and that’s why we drill it every day. That’s why we have accountabilities. When we’re watching film and I see them with one hand on the ball, then we’re going to do accountabilities for that the next day to keep it in their head that is has to become something they don’t think about.”

As much as Lashlee doesn’t want to think about it, he admits it gives him pause to contemplate the possibility of starting a true freshman like Johnson.

Strike up the well-worn phrase (slightly modified in this instance): It’s one thing to do it in a practice or scrimmage, Lashlee said. Doing it when there are 90,000 people in the stands is an entirely different matter.

“Good things are going to happen, but bad things are going to happen,” Lashlee said. “So that’s one thing you’re also looking for when you decide, ‘Who am I going to go with?’ It’s who I think that’s when it’s really good, they’re going to be the same, and when things get really tough, they’re going to be even-keeled. They’re not going to be rattled.”

That’s why it’s on the coaching staff to make sure the quarterback they choose is ready for that type of pressure, Lashlee said.

When that determination will be made remains a moving target, though.

“We don’t have a date, but the quicker you can decide, the quicker you can move on to preparing for your opponent ,” Lashlee said, “and you can (start) preparing for maybe getting that (offensive) continuity together.”

August 13, 2013

Auburn football: Jonathan Wallace down (on depth chart), but far from out of starting quarterback race

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Jonathan Wallace will be the invisible man this week.

Jonathan Wallace won't get any snaps with the first team offense this week, but he's still in the running for Auburn's starting quarterback job, according to coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. (File photo)

Jonathan Wallace won’t get any snaps with the first team offense this week, but he’s still in the running for Auburn’s starting quarterback job, according to coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. (File photo)

After Auburn coach Gus Malzahn announced on Monday that newcomers Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall would split all the reps at quarterback with the first-team offense this week, Wallace became an afterthought. Many thought the move eliminated Wallace, for all intents and purposes, from becoming the Tigers’ starting quarterback this fall. Malzahn disputed that notion on Monday, and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee reiterated it Tuesday.

Malzahn and Lashlee came to the decision for one reason: They already knew what Wallace and Kiehl Frazier who has since moved to safety could do. The coaching staff had an entire spring to evaluate them.

Now they want the chance to do the same with Marshall and Johnson.

Lashlee described what he and Malzahn told Wallace when they sat down together on Sunday to map out the coming week at quarterback.

“We just told him going into this week, ‘We feel like we’ve got a pretty good grasp on what your strengths are and what you can do,” Lashlee said. “‘You’re not out of it. You’re still going to get plenty of reps. Just hang in there for the next couple of days. These two guys are going to get the bulk of the reps. We’ve got to see how they respond.'”

Wallace took the news in stride, exactly the way Lashlee knew he would.

“He understands it. He’s always ready and when he does get reps like he got some reps today he’s ready to take advantage of it,” Lashlee said. “He’s done what you would want an older guy to do: He’s been encouraging them. He’s been a perfect team player.”

But will he remain that paragon of selflessness forever?

Ryan Nelson thinks so.

The offensive coordinator at Wallace’s alma mater, Central High School in Phenix City, Ala., said his former player has always carried himself with a team-first mentality.

“Jonathan is the definition of a true team player,” he said. “He has been that way throughout his career, especially at Central. And I think Jonathan is going to embrace his role at Auburn, whatever it is. And he’ll do it to the best of his ability.”

One of the sophomore’s best attributes is his consistency, Nelson said. There aren’t any surprises with Wallace, who Nelson said brings the same thing to the table every day.

“You know what you’re going to get out of him when he steps on the field,” he said. “Off the field, there’s nothing to hide. That’s one of the characteristics of his personality. It’s the way he was brought up.”

Neither Wallace nor any of Auburn’s other quarterbacks have been made available to speak to the media since fall camp began, Frazier’s position change notwithstanding. That means, of course, no one has been able to gauge the mind-set of the contenders, to look them in the eyes and see how they react to questions, of both the simple and pointed variety.

Nelson couldn’t speak for Wallace’s thoughts on the competition no one can do that but Wallace himself. However, Nelson said it’s safe to say Wallace should be “real excited” for the opportunity to become the face of the Tigers at the most prominent position in his sport.

Who wouldn’t be, after all?

“Just knowing Jonathan and what he was about at Central, he’s going to come to work every day,” Nelson said. “He’s going to give 100 percent on and off the field, he’s going to be as prepared as anybody and he’s going to go out there and compete and see what happens.”

August 12, 2013

Gus Malzahn video: Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson ‘have earned the right to compete for the job’

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — News about Auburn’s quarterback race finally surface on Monday, as head coach Gus Malzahn revealed that the two newcomers — Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson — will split reps with the first-team offense this week. He discusses this as well as where Jonathan Wallace figures into the competition, and how Kiehl Frazier made the decision to move to safety.

UPDATED: Gus Malzahn says Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson to split reps ’50-50′ with first-team offense this week

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s quarterback race saw a major shakeup on Monday.

Auburn's starting quarterback race has eliminated one candidate, as Kiehl Frazier voluntarily decided to move to safety. Head coach Gus Malzahn said Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall will split snaps with the first-team offense this week. (Photo by Todd Van Emst)

Auburn’s starting quarterback race has eliminated one candidate, as Kiehl Frazier voluntarily decided to move to safety. Head coach Gus Malzahn said Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall will split snaps with the first-team offense this week. (Photo by Todd Van Emst)

Head coach Gus Malzahn announced the practice plan for this week is to split the snaps with the first team “50-50″ between the two newcomers — Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson. Malzahn said he and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee met with Marshall, Johnson, Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace on Sunday to discuss how things would look as fall camp progresses.

“We told them all we feel like (Johnson and Marshall) have earned the right to compete for the job and they’re going to get the majority of reps with our ones this week,” Malzahn said. “That’s not to say that Jonathan Wallace will not be our starter come Day 1, but we are going to give those two new guys a real chance to compete for the job and really show what they can do.”

While Wallace may not have been officially eliminated from winning the job, he won’t receive any snaps with the first-team offense this week. It’s also unlikely that he’ll move to another position, even if he ends up as the third quarterback on the depth chart.

“(He’s) a quarterback,” Malzahn said, “and he’s a good one.”

Frazier, on the other hand, voluntarily removed himself from the competition. During his Sunday sit-down with Malzahn and Lashlee, he proposed switching to safety to “help the team,” Malzahn said. Neither the coach nor the offensive coordinator argued against the move.

According to Malzahn, the transition to defense will be a permanent one for the former USA Today National Offensive Player of the Year.

“He’s going to be full-time safety,” Malzahn said. ”He can still do some things on offense, but he’s putting his energy into safety.”

With Wallace relegated to the background and Frazier no longer a factor, Malzahn noted Marshall and Johnson began to distance themselves the moment fall camp began, showing signs of improvement every practice.

“Both of them have extremely live arms,” he said. “They both can run and both of them are athletic. It’s just a matter of how quick they can get acclimated. We’re still looking for a couple of different situations to see how they react and see how their teammates react.”

Johnson’s inexperience hasn’t been a hindrance to him yet, and Malzahn doesn’t see that changing any time soon.

“Whoever gives us the best chance of winning and being successful will be our quarterback,” he said. “Obviously, it’s tough for a true freshman in this league, but if he’s the best and we believe he gives us the best chance of winning, he’ll be our quarterback.”

The reps with the first-team offense will be divided as equally as possible, Malzahn said, with the coaching staff keeping tabs on their decision-making every play.

“We’re trying to put those two guys with our main group as much as we can this week to see how they respond and really, to see how their teammates respond to them,” he said. “See who can move the ball, see who can protect the football and do the things it takes to be successful and to win.”

The Tigers will hold another scrimmage Tuesday, but the quarterbacks won’t be “live,” meaning they are not allowed to be tackled. The lack of contact will have no effect on the evaluation of the signal-callers, Malzahn said.

Despite the streamlining of snaps at the position, Malzahn refused to settle on a date for naming the starter.

“Obviously, we’d like to name something sooner rather than later, but that’s just the plan for this week,” he said. “That’s not to say we’re going to name somebody at the end of this week.”

Notes

Demetruce McNeal practiced on Monday, the first time he has took part in team activities since fall camp began. Malzahn said the senior safety was required to complete two acclimation periods (comprising Monday and Tuesday) before he can don full pads. “He was out there practicing today and looking good,” Malzahn said. … Hybrid safety/linebacker Justin Garrett’s left foot injury continues to improve, and he’s expected to be back at practice soon. “It’s day to day right now,” Malzahn said, “but it’s nothing to get too worked up about.” … Malzahn confirmed that wide receiver Tony Stevens returned to the field on Monday. The true freshman was battling a hamstring injury last week that forced him to miss the Tigers’ scrimmage on Saturday.

August 10, 2013

Auburn football: Gus Malzahn continues to be coy about quarterbacks

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — For a coach who preaches his commitment to an up-tempo pace, Gus Malzahn has done a good job playing keep away when it comes to Auburn’s quarterback battle.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has continued to keep information regarding his team's quarterback battle tightly sealed. (File photo)

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has continued to keep information regarding his team’s quarterback battle tightly sealed. (File photo)

But one thing was different about his post-scrimmage press conference on Saturday: He finally mentioned a quarterback by name. Of course, it was none other than walk-on signal-caller Tucker Tuberville, the only quarterback who went “live” on Saturday.

With the four scholarship quarterbacks vying for the starting job — Kiehl Frazier, Nick Marshall, Jonathan Wallace and Jeremy Johnson — still in the running, Malzahn hopes to start paring it down soon.

“Our goal after this scrimmage was to narrow things down at all positions but specifically the quarterback position,” he said. “Hopefully, after we watch film, we’ll have a chance to do that somewhat.”

Then again, they might not.

“Me and (offensive coordinator) Coach (Rhett) Lashlee, after we watch film and evaluate this scrimmage, we’ll get together and our plan was to narrow it down somewhat,” he said. “So I’d like to think we’re going to be able to do that. With that being said there is a possibility that we won’t.”

Malzahn was similarly evasive when asked which quarterback took the first snap on Saturday.

“They all got reps again. Whoever was the first guy out there that doesn’t say anything about first, second, third or fourth,” he said. “Coach Lashlee had a plan for each one of them to have them in those situations. I believe we got all those situations taken care of.”

The specific situations didn’t just involve down-and-distance, Malzahn said. The Tigers also ran what he called the “foundation plays” in their playbook. As a whole, however, Malzahn said the quarterbacks’ play didn’t look much different than Wednesday’s scrimmage.

“When you’ve got four guys playing, there’s going to be good and there’s going to be bad,” he said. “It was similar. “

August 8, 2013

Been busy lately? Links to all recent Auburn content in one place

Auburn A-Day Jordan-Hare Stadium

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Look, we all lead busy lives.

So believe me, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you’re not caught up with everything that has been posted on WarEagleExtra.com since Tuesday. That’s more than understandable given the prodigious production of content over the better part of 48 hours. To wit: There have been a whopping 19 items added to the blog during that span.

But there’s no reason to scroll through page after page to read every story and watch every video — especially when we’ve compiled them all right here in one handy dandy post.

Whether it’s a notebook, practice report, a player profile or a video interview — or perhaps something else entirely — you’ll find it below. (And for your convenience, each item is sectioned accordingly.)

NOTEBOOKS

8/6 — Tigers cut Tuesday practice short to focus on first scrimmage of fall

8/7 — Defense believes it won first scrimmage of the fall ‘hands down’

8/8 — Malzahn pleased with toughness of quarterbacks, disappointed with energy at Thursday morning practice

PRACTICE REPORTS

8/6 — Tigers don full pads for first time, Demetruce McNeal inactive once again

8/7 — Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes absent from first scrimmage of fall

PRACTICE VIDEO

8/7 — Quarterbacks run read-option, Cody Parkey works on point-after attempts and field goals

VIDEO INTERVIEWS, POST-PRACTICE

8/6 — Ellis Johnson hopes defenders ‘will start to polish things up’ in coming days

8/6 — Rhett Lashlee says coaching staff ‘learned a lot more’ about offense during last two practices

8/6 — Gus Malzahn: Tigers ‘very physical’ in shortened Tuesday practice

8/7 — Senior H-back Jay Prosch glad to be ‘able to hit somebody’ in first full-pads practice

8/7 — Junior wide receiver Jaylon Denson predicts newcomers at position will play ‘a lot in the fall’

8/7 — Gus Malzahn: Tigers treated scrimmage ‘just like a regular football game’

8/8 — Running back Corey Grant ‘saw a lot of positive things’ from quarterbacks during scrimmage

8/8 — Safety Jermaine Whitehead excited enough for season he would ‘play in the parking lot’ if need be

8/8 — Gus Malzahn: Film of scrimmage provided ‘some good information’ on quarterbacks

PLAYER/POSITION PROFILES

8/6 — Rhett Lashlee: Quarterbacks ‘are bringing themselves along nicely,’ but battle still far from over

8/6 — Tigers still trying to sort out playing time at linebacker

8/7 — Kris Frost fighting to establish himself as Auburn’s starting middle linebacker (w/video)

8/7 — Quarterbacks take licks and dish them out as no-contact ban lifted during scrimmage

Auburn notes: Malzahn pleased with toughness of quarterbacks, disappointed with energy at Thursday morning practice

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn was not happy Thursday.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn (right) and coordinators Rhett Lashlee (left) and Ellis Johnson (center) broke down film of Wednesday's scrimmage along with the rest of the coaching staff. Malzahn came away impressed with the quarterbacks' resolve under pressure. (Photo by Todd Van Emst)

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn (right) and coordinators Rhett Lashlee (left) and Ellis Johnson (center) broke down film of Wednesday’s scrimmage along with the rest of the coaching staff. Malzahn came away impressed with the quarterbacks’ resolve under pressure. (Photo by Todd Van Emst)

Auburn’s head coach had just walked in from the team’s morning practice, the first of two sessions scheduled for Thursday. Known for his punctiliousness, there may have been a valid reason Malzahn was running late to his post-practice meeting with reporters.

He was too busy lighting into the Tigers for what he considered a lackluster effort.

“I pulled the team up afterward and just told them that, bottom line, (I) wasn’t happy with the way we responded,” he said. “I didn’t feel like our approach was good and we’re going to have to make sure we are mentally and physically ready to practice each time.”

The morning practice was spent correcting mistakes made in Wednesday’s scrimmage. Malzahn and the rest of the coaching staff broke down film of the scrimmage and passed along their critique along to the players.

“We just felt like it was important that each one of the guys understand the expectations for each position the coach has,” Malzahn said, “and make sure the expectations were clear. ”

Malzahn came away from his film study pleased with the way the quarterbacks handled pressure.

“We had some guys hanging in the pocket. All four of them showed toughness and that’s one of the No. 1 things that you look for in a quarterback,” he said. “Can they hang in the pocket when the pressure is on? And they all took pretty good licks. I think we got some good information.”

Each of the four quarterbacks competing for the job — Kiehl Frazier, Nick Marshall, Jonathan Wallace and Jeremy Johnson — had their share of gaffes, though, as the defense picked off multiple passes.

The signal-callers weren’t necessarily at fault for all of them.

“There was some pressure, there was some routes on some that weren’t right, so it wasn’t all the quarterbacks,” Malzahn said, “but at the same time, the bottom line is the quarterback is the most responsible person for any kind of mishaps. ”

Those miscues helped the evaluation process, since Malzahn said the coaching staff is specifically looking at how each quarterback responds under duress.

“We’re going to try to put those guys in the same situation, not only today, but in our next scrimmage,” he said. “The plan will be after that next scrimmage, hopefully we can start to narrow some things down.”

One aspect that livened up Wednesday’s scrimmage was “going live” with the quarterbacks, which gave defenders free rein to knock them to the ground. With another scrimmage on tap Saturday, Malzahn was asked whether he would institute a similar strategy.

“I don’t know yet,” he said. “I’m still trying to work through that. Me and (offensive coordinator) Coach (Rhett) Lashlee will decide that sometime tomorrow.”

Freshmen defensive linemen making their mark

Quarterbacks were far from the only players auditioning for playing time during the scrimmage. That’s the the case at nearly every position, after all.

“It’s very good to see how the (newcomers) react and see how much they improve,” Malzahn said. “We have pretty good information on our old guys (after) going through spring, but they’re also getting good reps.”

Malzahn noted the highly-touted trio of freshmen defensive linemen — Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel — have also been showing signs of progress.

“They’re getting a lot of reps,” he said. “I know (defensive line) Coach (Rodney) Garner is getting a good look at them. Saturday will be big trying to figure out these guys — who can handle it mentally and who can’t.”

McNeal, Grimes on the mend

Demetruce McNeal, who has yet to take part in fall camp following a minor surgery caused by an infection, did not participate Thursday morning. Malzahn didn’t expect him back for Thursday’s afternoon session, though he said the senior safety “possibly” could be suited up for Saturday’s scrimmage.

McNeal has missed 12 straight practices dating back to the spring.

Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes was also absent Thursday morning. He missed Wednesday’s scrimmage after undergoing an unknown medical procedure earlier in the day.

Malzahn confirmed Grimes would be back with the Tigers for their second practice Thursday.

Quick hits

Malzahn said there were “a couple of guys banged up” coming out of the scrimmage, but nothing serious enough to hold a player out. … Thursday’s second practice will be split into two halves, with one part focused on special teams and the other on the further installation of offensive and defensive schemes. Malzahn said the Tigers will likely practice in “shells” (helmets and pads), but won’t put on full pads.