AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn billed Tuesday’s scrimmage as an important test for his quarterbacks, a chance to make an impression before he narrows his search for a starter.
But he and head coach Gene Chizik weren’t drawing any conclusions immediately following the scrimmage, and a few Tigers players didn’t envy their position.
“All the quarterbacks looked pretty good,” cornerback Walt McFadden said. “I wouldn’t want to be Malzahn right now.”
All five of Auburn’s quarterbacks — veterans Chris Todd, Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle and true freshmen Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley — had their chance at Jordan-Hare Stadium during the closed scrimmage, splitting reps almost evenly during the approximately 80 plays, with the two newcomers getting more of the action at the end.
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Moseley provided the capper, according to the players, connecting with freshman Emory Blake on a deep post pattern for a touchdown in the offense’s 41-32 victory using the same reward-based scoring system Chizik installed last spring.
But the score wasn’t the important part for Malzahn.
“Everybody played,” he said. “That’s what you need to do. When you’re evaluating and really trying to get good information on the young guys, you need to give them a good chance, and we rotated some guys in. … We would like to (narrow things down) as soon as possible, but at the same time we want to be 110 percent sure.”
“I think it’s getting to the point where here in a few days we’re going to have to really look at doing that,” Chizik said of narrowing the field. “(Gus) and I will stay on the same page and discuss the time frame that we want to do that, but, obviously, the sooner the better. Tonight will be a lot of great information in that direction.”
The veteran quarterbacks estimated that they each led about two drives, hardly enough to get in a rhythm. But they realized Tuesday’s scrimmage wasn’t the only factor in Malzahn’s decision.
“This is an evaluation day, but, at the same time, we’ve had six, seven practices now,” Burns said.
“A week doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but, as much as we’re in here and as much as we’re out here practicing and stuff, I think he’s got a good grasp of how he’ll do things,” Todd said. “I don’t know. He might have a good grasp on it, he might not have a good one at all. … He hasn’t given us much feedback on where we stand in it.”
The offense came out on top, but the starters didn’t score any touchdowns against their defensive counterparts.
But Eric Smith and Onterio McCalebb had touchdown runs and Philip Lutzenkirchen caught a touchdown pass from Rollison in the latter half of the scrimmage, which was reserved for getting newcomers accustomed to a game-like situation.
“It’s invaluable,” Chizik said. “You’ve got to be able to put them in these situations a minimum of three times before you play. The officials are there, the clock is running, they’re trying to get the tempo, they’re having to see it from the sideline, they’re not being coached every play.”
Chizik plans to have two more scrimmages before the Tigers open the season Sept. 5 at home against Louisiana Tech.
“It was an overall productive night,” he said. “You never get too excited or too down. It’s never as good as it seems and never as bad as it seems on the field. Got a lot of improvement to make, but, overall, it was a very good first scrimmage.”