AUBURN, Ala. — A minor shift in quarterback reps highlighted Auburn’s practice Friday.
Quarterback Chris Todd worked alongside Kodi Burns with the veteran wide receivers during the first half. Neil Caudle moved to the second half with freshmen Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley.
What does it all mean? That Auburn has a lot of quarterbacks.
“To truly evaluate them, we’ll have to rotate these quarterbacks,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said.
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Malzahn refused to rule any of his five active quarterbacks out of the race Friday, three practices into August and less than a month before the Tigers open their season against Louisiana Tech.
“We have more information than we did in the spring,” he said. “It was real good to see how they came back after the summer. We’ve seen some improvement and some have improved more than others.”
Malzahn has had a true freshman quarterback step in before, handing Mitch Mustain the reins in his only season at Arkansas. But Mustain already had a working knowledge of Malzahn’s offense, having played for him in high school. For a true freshman to step in immediately without that background would be hard.
“I think it’s extremely tough — especially in this league with the defensive speed,” Malzahn said. “You would have to narrow things down and be simple and build on that.”
Things could be clearer once Auburn scrimmages for the first time Tuesday, putting some added pressure on the quarterbacks to perform early.
“I’m not worried about the pressure,” said Burns, who battled Todd for the starting spot last August.
In search of a Wildcat
Malzahn is looking for a starting quarterback, but he’s also auditioning for a Wildcat quarterback. He has plenty of options for the direct-snap role. Junior running back Mario Fannin, who Malzahn called Auburn’s “most-versatile guy,” played the position last year.
On Thursday, true freshmen wide receivers Anthony Gulley, Travante Stallworth and Emory Blake and running back Dontae Aycock tried it. Stallworth and Aycock both played quarterback in high school.
“You have to have someone who can secure the ball,” Malzahn said, describing his ideal candidate. “You have to have someone who can run and throw well enough to keep them honest.”
Malzahn estimated that about 10 percent of the offensive plays he called at Tulsa were in the Wildcat formation, although when he had former Heisman runner-up Darren McFadden at Arkansas, he doubled those reps.
Auburn practiced in shells (helmets and shoulder pads) for the first time Friday, increasing the amount of contact in practice. The Tigers will not practice in pads until Sunday, when defensive coordinator Ted Roof said he’ll get a better idea of what he’s working with.
Freshman safety Daren Bates, who was approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse Thursday, did drills in the latter half of Friday’s practice. … DB Woody Parramore and Minnesota WR transfer Ralph Spry Jr. were added to the roster. … DT Mike Blanc did not have his left hand wrapped Friday like he did Thursday. But the junior did not participate in drills for a second straight day.