Aug 27, 2013
Kiehl Frazier has no regrets about his move from quarterback to safety (Todd Van Emst)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - At first, it was strange and confusing. Kiehl Frazier had been a part-time safety back in Arkansas at Shiloh Christian School, but it wasn't anything like this.
"At first, I felt really awkward," Frazier says. "You could tell on film I hadn't played the position in a while, but as each day goes by, I'm getting more and more comfortable."
Frazier, the one-time 4-star quarterback with dozens of scholarship offers, is an Auburn safety as his junior season nears. He has been for more than two weeks now. He doesn't know if he'll play in Saturday night's opener against Washington State, but he says he hasn't regretted the decision to leave the quarterback race. Junior college transfer Nick Marshall eventually beat out freshman Jeremy Johnson and sophomore Jonathan Wallace to win that job.
"It was really hard, being a quarterback my whole life and, coming out of high school, having those illusions all quarterbacks have," Frazier says. "Making the decision, I felt like it was best for me and best for the team. I feel like we are sound at the quarterback position. I think Nick will really do a great job. I felt like defense was somewhere I could really help the team."
Frazier won the starting job last season and started the first six games, but there was little but misery. Frazier struggled, sparking intense criticism and online and elsewhere, finally giving way to Clint Moseley who gave way to Wallace.
Frazier and Wallace left spring practice with the race undecided. Marshall arrived in June. As preseason camp began, Frazier almost immediately began to think about moving.
"Going into camp probably was the first time I thought about it," Frazier says. "Going into the first day of camp, I wasn't 100 percent into playing quarterback. Nick and Jeremy and Jonathan all started doing a really good job at practice. I just felt like I could help the team more at safety."
The misery of last season, he says, was part of it. But there was more.
"I think that was part of it, and kind of just getting burned out on doing one thing my whole life," Frazier says. "I just felt like I needed a change."
Frazier traded in his No. 10 jersey for No. 25. His teammates on both sides of the ball offered their support. That support, Frazier says, is a sign of a different team with a different kind of mindset heading into Gus Malzahn's first season as head coach.
"I think it's just dedication and effort," Frazier says. "When you see guys missing workouts all the time and complaining all the time, getting in little groups and complaining about the coaches, you have division. We had a lot of that last year. That's something we don't have this year. Everybody is working hard, showing up on time and buying into the system."
Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said last week he didn't know if Frazier will be ready to play against the Cougars, but he said the time will come when he's ready.
"Once he gets comfortable," Johnson said, "I think he'll play quite a bit for us."
Frazier learned some hard lessons last season. Though he tried to ignore the criticism, he couldn't get away from it, not even in class. But he says he harbors no bitterness toward students who muttered insults or anonymous message board posters who questioned not only his talent but his courage.
"Everybody has their own opinions," Frazier says. "They are allowed to say what they want to and have their own opinions, but really, when it comes down to it, they don't know what they are talking about. It was kind of frustrating at first, but I remember growing up being a Hog fan. I said the most unrealistic stuff all the time, and I sure didn't know what was going on."
Marshall's quick rise to the top of the depth chart has impressed Frazier. But he knows all too well that's the easy part. The pressure will be intense on Saturday night. If he succeeds, he'll be cheered. If he falters, he'll soon hear the same kind of criticism Frazier heard.
"I'd just say have confidence in yourself and don't listen to that," Frazier says. "They can talk about you all they want, but nobody knows you as well as you do. Don't ever listen to that. Just do what you know you can do."
At 6-foot-2 and 224 pounds, Frazier has the speed and athleticism to excel at his new position. And head coach Malzahn says that's what he expects.
"I think every day he feels more comfortable," Malzahn said. "The more you do, the better you get at it. He's a competitor, he's a smart football player and he understands offensive concepts. There's a good chance he'll be out on the field soon."
Frazier says he didn't consider looking elsewhere for another opportunity to play quarterback. Auburn, he says, is his school, regardless of how much he plays.
"I never really thought about leaving," Frazier says. "Auburn is a place I love. Just being a regular student, I would have loved going to school here."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: