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August 30, 2013

Auburn football: Best of the week

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Now just one day away from Auburn’s season opener, we can look back at the week that was.

We’ll do this every Friday for the rest of the season, linking to the best quotes, stories and videos from Sunday through Thursday. It’s obviously an abridged version of the immense number of items produced during the week, but this is supposed to be a short and breezy read, hitting on (what I consider) the highlights.AU logo

Enjoy.

BEST QUOTES

Left guard Alex Kozan, on how Gus Malzahn notices things other coaches would not:

“For instance, if we were to run a zone play … most coaches would look at what their quarterback is doing, what are the running backs’ and receiver’s eyes doing. Where are their eyes? He’ll notice what the right guard’s foot placement is. Things like that. A lot of coaches will leave that up to the line coach. He’ll pull you aside 15 minutes later and say: ‘Hey, on that play, what were you doing?’ That’s impressive, I think, for any football player who has the opportunity to work with him.”

Malzahn on whether he’s placing any extra pressure on himself to win his debut game as the Tigers’ head coach:

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the first game or any game. I want us to play. I want us to do things right, to be disciplined and protect the football, play hard. It’s no different than any others, but I think it’s common sense. We’ve got a team that had great struggles last year, so definitely it’d be great to get off to a good start.”

BEST STORIES

Backup quarterback Jonathan Wallace is willing to do ‘anything’ the team the coaching staff asks of him.

The Tigers are still waiting to find a go-to receiver. Head coach Gus Malzahn said it won’t happen until one of them can ‘prove it on Saturdays’ this fall.

BEST VIDEOS

Alex Kozan (Tuesday afternoon)

Gus Malzahn (Wednesday night)

August 25, 2013

Auburn football: Backup Jonathan Wallace willing to do ‘anything’ to help Tigers reach goals (w/video)

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Being prepared to go in at a moment’s notice won’t be a difficult task for Jonathan Wallace this fall.

Jonathan Wallace didn't win Auburn's starting quarterback job, but that's not stopping him from being ready to step on the field at a moment's notice. (File photo)

Jonathan Wallace (front) didn’t win Auburn’s starting quarterback job, but that’s not stopping him from being ready to step on the field at a moment’s notice. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee (back) is confident the Tigers won’t miss a beat if Wallace takes over. (File photo)

After all, Wallace said he is used to it by now, calling upon the experience he got with Auburn last year. No, Wallace might not have been “one play away” from going in at quarterback — it was more like two plays, he said — since he was behind both Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley.

However, the sophomore said, it has helped him feel comfortable with his current role, serving as Nick Marshall’s backup entering Saturday’s season opener against Washington State.

“I know what I need to do, and I believe the coaches feel the same way,” he said following Sunday’s practice. “That’s why I’m in the position I am now.”

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee made good on Wallace’s words, saying the coaching staff has “got all the confidence in the world” in the Phenix City, Ala., native.

“Jonathan has been great,” Lashlee said. “He comes to work every day. If we hadn’t made a decision, you probably wouldn’t know anything was different, other than maybe the reps have changed for him. … If he’s put in there, he’s going to know what to do, he’s going to be prepared and he’s going to do a good job.”

Though three players fought to the end for the right to take over the highly-visible position, Wallace said it was far from nerve-wracking.

In fact, he rather enjoyed it.

“It was a lot of fun and a lot of great competition,” Wallace said. “Nick and Jeremy (Johnson) are both very, very, very good. It really helped us push each other through camp. We just really battled it out, so it was fun.”

While he was obviously disappointed to lose out to Marshall, he understood the decision. He knows the coaching staff is doing what it believes gives the Tigers the best chance to win each week. To help them reach that goal, Wallace said the team needed to support Marshall unequivocally.

And to their credit, he said, they are doing just that.

“There is a lot of pressure if you allow that pressure to affect you,” Wallace said of being Auburn’s starting signal-caller. “I think Nick is handling it very well right now. The team is behind him, that’s the biggest thing.”

Wallace also said he’ll do whatever else the Tigers ask him to do. That includes being a holder with the field goal and extra-point units, which he began to do during fall camp. It wasn’t difficult for him to acclimate to it, recalling his prep career.

“I did it in high school a lot my senior year, so it’s not new to me,” he said. “I’m used to it. Anything that I can do help this team, I’m willing to do it.”

His readiness to take on any responsibility is why he said he “never” considered transferring.

For emphasis, he repeated “never” three times.

“I’m an Auburn man,” he said.

August 23, 2013

Miss anything? Links to all recent Auburn content in one place

Auburn 31, ULM Louisiana-Monroe 28

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Some may remember a post on WarEagleExtra.com two weeks ago which linked to 19 different stories at one time.

Well, it’s the same deal here. There have been 22 additions to the blog since Monday (not including this post, of course), and with almost 48 hours remaining until we get to speak with any of Auburn’s players or coaches again — we’ll be speaking with coordinators, Ellis Johnson and Rhett Lashlee on Sunday evening, for those wondering — it would be a good time to get caught up on all the latest goings-on with the Tigers.

So don’t frustrate yourself by trying to scroll down to take in every piece of content that’s been produced in the last four days. That’s what this post is here for: to make it simpler for you, the reader, by having everything compiled in one place.

If you’re looking for a notebook, we’ve got it. A feature? That too. Videos? Yes sir. Whatever you want, you should be able to find below. (And as per usual, each item is sectioned accordingly.)

NEWS & NOTES

8/19 — Injuries to keep Dee Ford and Jonathan Jones out of season opener

8/20 — True freshman Johnathan Ford switching from running back to cornerback

8/20 — Former Tigers Demetruce McNeal and Ricky Parks find new schools

8/20 — Gus Malzahn looks back at first fall camp as Tigers coach, feels team covered ‘all of our situations’

8/21 — 2014 schedule has Tigers hosting Arkansas in opener, traveling to Georgia and Alabama

8/22 — Six Tigers selected to coaches’ All-SEC preseason teams

8/22 — Demetruce McNeal officially enrolled at West Alabama

8/22 — Kiehl Frazier ‘in the mix’ for playing time in season opener, Justin Garrett returns to practice

VIDEO INTERVIEWS, POST-PRACTICE

8/19 — Gus Malzahn: Head coach says Nick Marshall ‘was a lot more vocal’ in first practice as starting QB

8/19 — Nick Marshall feels ‘blessed’ to start at quarterback for Tigers

8/19 — Rhett Lashlee says Nick Marshall ‘taking it and running with’ quarterback responsibilities

8/20 — Ellis Johnson has seen improvement ‘with past four practices’ after spate of injuries disrupt cohesiveness

8/20 — Auburn offense finds ‘best rhythm that we’ve had since I’ve been back’ in final practice of fall camp

8/21 — Junior defensive tackles Angelo Blackson and Gabe Wright

8/23 — Gus Malzahn pleased to see Nick Marshall ‘just as disappointed as the coaches’ when he makes a mistake

PLAYER/POSITION PROFILES

8/19 — Jonathan Wallace ahead of Jeremy Johnson in fight for backup QB spot

8/22 — Cassanova McKinzy believes weakside linebacker spot will showcase ‘everything I can do’

8/23 — Tigers not lacking for options in the backfield

MISCELLANEOUS ANALYSIS & SUCH

8/21 — Five questions (and five predictions) as Tigers head into regular season

8/22 — Replay Thursday’s live chat

8/23 — 4 at 4: Links to help the day pass by

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 16, 2013

Auburn football odds and ends: Gus Malzahn hopes to have starting QB in place by Monday, Jonathan Wallace progressing at holder

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — If everything goes according to plan, Auburn will know who its starting quarterback is by Monday.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn hopes to have a starting quarterback in place by Monday. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn hopes to have a starting quarterback in place by Monday. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

And if the Tigers come to a conclusion before then, obviously, that would be even better, head coach Gus Malzahn said.

“It could be (Friday), Saturday or Sunday,” Malzahn said Thursday. “Any time before next Monday would be really good for us, but like I’ve said before, we’re not sure.”

Auburn has had 16 practices since fall camp began, holding its final two-a-day practice Thursday. The Tigers will then have their fourth scrimmage on Saturday; assuming they make a decision at quarterback after the scrimmage, that would give the new signal-caller roughly 10 practices to work exclusively with the first-team offense.

“You want as much (practice) as possible,” Malzahn said. “Ideally, it would have been a week ago, and you get three weeks, but the earlier the better.”

Quarterback isn’t the only position still unsettled with the Aug. 31 opener against Washington State drawing ever closer. That’s why Malzahn hopes to solve those battles following Saturday’s scrimmage as well.

“Well, we’ve got a lot of stuff figured out, but there’s still a few we’re trying to answer,” he said. “Obviously, that’ll be two weeks from the first game, so you’d like to have pieces of the puzzle in place.”

Special teams update: Wallace at holder, four players working at punt return

Regardless of how Jonathan Wallace finishes in the starting quarterback competition, he still might see playing time at other spots on the field.

Kicker Cody Parkey lauded the progress the sophomore has made since he began holding kicks during fall camp.

“I’m teaching him as much as I can,” Parkey said. “He’s got potential and that’s the most important thing. Ryan (White) has been doing it for three years for me. To have a solid guy behind him and watching him like Jonathan Wallace  who is willing to learn  is good. I would say he’s doing well.”

Though Wallace is White’s backup at holder, he provides another dimension by either running or passing if there is a trick play or a botched snap.

“I think that’s our theory behind it, in case something like that does happen,” Parkey said. “We want someone that can make a play instead of taking a loss on the play.”

In other special teams news, Malzahn provided a brief update on the Tigers’ punt returners.

“We’ve got three or four guys working back there,” he said. “Quan Bray, Chris Davis, Marcus Davis. Obviously, we know what Trovon (Reed) can do, so we’re giving those guys all opportunities, and there’s been a few live situations that we’ve been able to evaluate those guys.  I think they’ll be ready.”

Quick hits

Safety Demetruce McNeal practiced Thursday morning and “looked 100 percent,” Malzahn said. Hybrid safety/linebacker Justin Garrett attended practice but didn’t participate. … Three walk-ons were awarded scholarships Wednesday night: wide receiver Dimitri Reese, defensive back Blake Poole and running back Chandler Shakespeare.

August 14, 2013

4 at 4: Off day provides time to catch up on latest news in college football

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — It’s a rare day on the Auburn football beat.graphics4

First, there’s no media availability. Second, and of greater import to non-reporters, the Tigers aren’t practicing today.

Head coach Gus Malzahn said this day will be used exclusively for the coaching staff to continue its evaluations of every player, as well as to start to pare down the positions that are still up for grabs.

With that in mind, it seems like a good day for a “4 at 4,” with some links highlighting both Auburn and other teams around college football.

1. I normally like to lead off with links to recent content published on the blog for those who might not have had a chance to read them yet. I see no reason to change that, so let’s start with a few pieces from the last two days: Avery Young and Patrick Miller continue to tussle to become the team’s starting right tackle, while receiver Sammie Coates said the game has “slowed down” for him entering his third season on the Plains. We have a post which includes post-practice video interviews with Coates, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and center Reese Dismukes. Finally, we have quarterback content galore: an update on the competition from Lashlee’s perspective along with a pair of profiles on current (and former) signal-callers, with the first focusing on Jonathan Wallace and the second on the Tigers’ newest safety, Kiehl Frazier.

And something to keep in mind for Thursday: I’ll be live chatting at 3 p.m. ET. I hope you’ll join.

2. In other Auburn news, Jason Dufner sure seems to be reaping the rewards of his victory in the PGA Championship. Heck, he even slept with the Wanamaker Trophy. (Check out the photo posted by his wife, Amanda, on her personal Instagram account.)

And a good get from colleague Brandon Marcello, who tracked down Matt Miller, the offensive coordinator at Garden City Community College in Kansas, where Nick Marshall lit up the junior college circuit last year. His former coach thinks Marshall “could be as good as any quarterback in the SEC” and compared him to former Kansas State great Michael Bishop, the Heisman Trophy runner-up (to Ricky Williams) in 1998.

3. How about a few interesting stories around college athletics? According to The Washington Post, Maryland’s move to the Big Ten hasn’t paid immediate dividends, as the athletic department is projected to operate at a deficit “until at least the 2017-18 academic year.” Meanwhile, Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant hopes the NCAA punishes Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel if the reigning Heisman Trophy winner is proven to accepted money in exchange for his autograph.

Speaking of punishment, Alabama has suspended starting inside linebacker Trey DePriest for a violation of team rules; meanwhile another SEC linebacker named “Trey” is looking to exit the league completely — LSU’s Trey Granier is seeking to transfer, according to Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune.

4. As we’ve done multiple times in the past, a tip of the cap to Scott Scroggins — the master statistician who works in the media relations arm of Auburn’s athletics department for finding another great video to bring today’s “4 at 4″ to a close.

Scroggins has been counting down the days until Auburn’s 2013 campaign begins, now standing 17. With that number on “Scroggins’ noggin,” he decided to link to the famous “Punt Bama Punt” game, which Auburn won 17-16 over Alabama in 1972, thanks to two blocked punts by Bill Newton. Both were returned for touchdowns by David Langner, who also came up with an interception on the final drive of the contest to seal the victory and help the Tigers topple the No. 2 Crimson Tide.

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.