AU QBs: Marshall, Johnson lead; Kiehl Frazier to safety

Aug. 12, 2013

MarshallJohnson

Nick Marshall, left, and Jeremy Johnson take aim at Auburn starting job (Todd Van Emst photos)

By Charles Goldberg
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala. — Junior college transfer Nick Marshall and freshman Jeremy Johnson have emerged as the frontrunners for the starting quarterback job at Auburn in a shakeup at the position that saw Kiehl Frazier move to safety. 

Coach Gus Malzahn made that call Monday night, opting for two quarterbacks who have never taken a snap at Auburn over two that shared the starting job last year.  

"We feel like they 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."

Malzahn stopped short of naming a starter, but Marshall and Johnson moved ahead of Frazier and Wallace. Frazier, who was on defense Monday, said he welcomed switching to safety after discussing the move with the coaching staff.

"I’m very happy for him," Malzahn said. "He’s going to make our team better." 

Auburn went 3-9 last season with Frazier, Wallace and Clint Moseley starting at various times. Moseley decided not to return, and Malzahn decided to give Marshall and Johnson an opportunity for a totally new look after 11 fall practices.

"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."

Malzahn said after last Saturday's scrimmage that it was time to cut the four-man QB race to something more manageable. Now, "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."

Marshall, who accounted for 37 touchdowns last season at Garden City Community College in Kansas, is considered a dual-threat quarterback. Johnson was the State of Alabama's Mr. Football last season at Carver High in Montgomery. He has a exceptionally strong arm, and passed for 31 TDs last year. 

Johnson passed for 3,193 yards last season, but he didn't stop there. He also rushed for 705 yards and seven TDs. He passed for more than 8,200 yards in his career at Carver. 

Marshall could become one of the more compelling stories of the football season, considering he played a full season at Georgia as a defensive back before leaving for Garden City where he became junior college quarterback stat machine. 

He passed for 3,142 yards and 18 touchdowns. He rushed for 1,095 yards and 19 touchdowns. 

He's from Pineview, Ga., where he threw for 103 touchdown passes, a Georgia High School Association record. 

Malzahn recruited Frazier out of their home state of Arkansas in 2011 when he was the Tigers' offensive coordinator. Frazier came with plenty of promise as USA Today's Offensive Player of the Year. He threw 12 passes as a freshman, but mostly ran, finishing as Auburn's third-leading rusher with 327 yards as Malzahn's Wildcat quarterback. He started five games early last year, hitting 62-of-116 passes for 753 yards and eight interceptions and two TDs. 

Malzahn said it was Frazier's idea to move to safety after a discussion with the coaches Sunday. Frazier said he did not consider transferring.

"I love Auburn. I love the coaching staff. I love the fans. I love my teammates," he said. "When I committed to Auburn, I committed to four years, maybe five."

Frazier said he didn't play well last season, though was in the quarterback battle through the first 11 practices of the fall. The move to safety, he said, "was something I've been thinking about for awhile."

"This will be best for me and the team for me to move to safety." 

Frazier said his focus going forward "is going to be 100 percent" playing safety. 

He said his first day at his new job "went really well."

Wallace didn't play until the fourth game last year as a rookie and didn't throw a pass until Game 7. But he started the final four games, compiling a 2-2 record. He set an Auburn freshman record for passing efficiency.  He hit 46-of-80 passes for 720 yards and four touchdowns. He also threw four interceptions. 

He's from Central High in Phenix City.

Gus Malzahn's post-practice news conference:

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twttier: