July 25, 2013
Auburn coaches celebrated on Signing Day in February (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — They don't want any distractions, so Gus Malzahn and his Auburn assistants are at their coaches' retreat for the second straight day today, just to make sure everybody is on the same page with the playbook.
No phone calls, please. There's work to do.
In this otherwise specialized football world, Malzahn wants to make sure the new coaching staff has the big picture of each play before fall practice begins Aug. 31.
No wonder he talked of quarterbacks, but, really, the big picture for all of his players during 10 interviews at ESPN on Tuesday, starting with spring practice.
"In our 6 a.m. workouts we really tried to strain them," Malzahn said. "It's a work in progress. Our guys trust their coaches, and we trust them. But there's nothing like the real thing. The first adversity that we experience in the stadium, my head is going to be on a swivel. I'm going to find out exactly who is with us."
Malzahn talked of rebuilding the psyche of the team heading to the season-opener against pass-happy Washington State on Aug. 31.
"The over/under," joked ESPN's Ivan Maisel, "is seven hours."
Sure enough, Washington State does nothing but throw the football, and Malzahn has been known to throw it around, too. But unlike the Cougars (who rushed for an astonishing-low 349 yards last season), Malzahn starts with the running game and likes a balanced plan.
"Our core of who we are — the run and pass game — will always stay the same," Malzahn told Maisel during a podcast. "The unique thing is we'll identify our quarterback and build around his strengths. That's why each year — I've had seven different quarterbacks in seven years in college — and we've been a little bit different."
This year's candidates are, by now, familiar to all Auburn fans. Malzahn gave a quick overview for the national audience:
•"Kiehl Frazier is a guy who has been there that I recruited. Played as a freshman. He has a lot of ability in the skill set to be successful."
•"Jonathan Wallace is a guy who played last year. Started and really had a solid spring. He and Kiehl went through spring and they were very close. I just didn't feel I wanted to name a starter. I wanted to give these two new guys a chance."
•"Jeremy Johnson is a freshman who is coming in. 6-5, 240. NFL arm. He has a chance to be really a good player."
•"Nick Marshall is coming in. He's a player who has a great arm. He's a player who actually started at corner for another team in the SEC (Georgia). That's the kind of athlete he is."
As far as naming a starter, Malzahn said, "I'm going into this with a real open mind."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine