Aug. 6, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Newcomers Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson are playing catch up to Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace in Auburn's quarterback race, but that's OK. Four practices in, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says he's still collecting information on just where everybody stands.
"We’re nowhere near trying to make any decisions at this point," Lashlee said after Monday's practice. "The hardest thing is when you’ve got four guys and you’re really trying to evaluate all four of them to give them the right amount of looks.
"I think we have been able to do that though. 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."
Frazier and Wallace left spring practice tied for first, but Lashlee and head coach Gus Malzahn made a point to say they didn't know who the starter would be. Now, the two offensive-minded coaches have added big-arm junior college transfer in Marshall and the state's Mr. Football in Johnson.
Lashlee said Marshall and Johnson spent the first few days of practice thinking "wow, this stuff is moving fast."
"But the last two days I have noticed that it’s starting to slow down for them. They are starting to grasp the system enough that they can play ball a little bit and they’re not thinking as much.
"They’re getting closer to where I think they can turn it loose and do what they’re capable of.
"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."
Auburn will scrimmage for sure Saturday. But the Tigers will get some real-world experience before that.
"I think we have learned a lot more in the last two days when we at least had shoulder pads on," Lashlee said. "Tomorrow, we go in full pads and you get to start tackling.
"Probably 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 and that will be big."
Perhaps, after that, he'll have a quarterback pecking order. Until then…
"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," Lashlee. "They need the reps, really all four of them, to learn the system and improve."
Lashlee hasn't had Marshall and Johnson long. But he had Frazier and Wallace in the spring, and he said he's seen a change already.
"From Kiehl and Jonathan's standpoint, they changed their bodies," Lashlee said. "When they came back to my meeting on Day 1, I almost didn't recognize them. They looked good. I think Kiehl lost 15-17 pounds (officially listed at 224 pounds). He leaned up. Jonathan looks good. He's gotten a little bigger (at 206). And they're athletic guys. They have that ability to keep the play alive. Jeremy and Nick both have that athletic ability, too. That's a positive."
Charles Goldberg writes for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine