AUBURN, Ala. — With full-scale Northwestern preparation still a few days away and Auburn having plenty of practice time to fill before the Outback Bowl, seldom-used quarterbacks Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley got their chance to work in team drills Sunday.
Trotter wasn’t full speed until recently after tearing a knee ligament last spring. Moseley worked mostly on the scout team during his redshirt season. They will get reps this month, though, which is the unofficial start of Auburn’s 2010 quarterback competition.
“We told the guys, not just the quarterbacks but all the young guys, that you’re trying to earn a position right now starting for next year,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “We’re looking at some of this as an extra spring practice. We’re challenging our guys. We’ll find out more the more we go.”
With the Tigers unlikely to add a quarterback to their recruiting class, five players figure to be considered candidates to replace Chris Todd as the starter: Neil Caudle, Kodi Burns, Trotter, Tyrik Rollison and Moseley. Here is an assessment of each of them:
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He has been passed over throughout his career but likely will enter the spring as the frontrunner for the job. He was Todd’s backup this season and got of the second-team reps.
The junior has little game experience — he was 15-for-20 for 170 yards and a touchdown this year in mop-up duty — but it’s more than anyone else on the roster.
“It’s a lot different out there playing against other teams live than it is playing against guys you know and not being live,” Caudle said. “So it’s definitely an advantage for me. ... If I go out there and play like I should, I think I can win this job.”
Coaches said when Burns moved to wide receiver in August that he would have a chance to compete as a quarterback again next year. But he still has worked with the wide receivers during early bowl practices, bringing into question how true that first statement is.
Burns never has been an accurate passer and seemed to find his niche as the team’s wildcat quarterback last season, so it is unclear whether he will seriously enter the picture as a regular quarterback this offseason.
He had fallen behind Caudle and Burns in the quarterback race last spring before tearing his ACL. Although the injury set him back, the redshirt freshman remained a part of play-calling, helping relay calls to Todd during every game this year.
He began agility drills in the latter half of the season and appears to be healthy.
“He’s a competitor,” Malzahn said. “He throws a real tight ball. The ball comes out of his hand really well. He’s a decent runner too and has a lot of leadership qualities.”
The true freshman was considered the heir apparent but is now in limbo after being suspended by head coach Gene Chizik for the duration of bowl practices for an unspecified violation of team rules.
How far behind will the suspension put him?
“He got a lot of reps during the year, so I wouldn’t say much,” Malzahn said.
Chizik has been strict with his requirements for players to return to action, but he has proven with running back Eric Smith and guard Byron Isom that he is willing to allow second chances. Nevertheless, missing what amounts to a spring’s worth of practices this month, despite the coaches’ claims, will be a disadvantage for a position where reps are paramount.
The forgotten freshman has worked mostly on the scout team this year, so coaches haven’t seen much of him running the offense. But Moseley still has drawn positive reviews.
“He slung that ball around,” wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said after Sunday’s practice.
Despite being on the scout team, coaches were impressed with Moseley.
“He watched film and tried to really simulate the other team’s quarterback,” Malzahn said. “A lot of scout team quarterbacks wouldn’t do that. (Defensive coordinator Ted) Roof was really bragging on him from week to week. He’s a big strong kid and can throw it a long way.”