AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is entering enters his sixth year at the college level. He also will be introducing his sixth starting quarterback.
“Somewhere down the line, it would be nice to have that second year with the guy who knows how to think in the system and really that I’ll know how they’re going to react on the field,” he said.
Malzahn will settle for the next-best thing from his two options this spring, junior Barrett Trotter and sophomore Clint Moseley, who have worked in the system the past two years.
“They have a good understanding of the offense, even though they have not been on the field in game situations much,” Malzahn said.
Trotter, who served as Cam Newton’s backup last year, figured to be the frontrunner over Moseley, who worked on the scout team in 2009 and had limited reps last year. But they will split reps close to even this spring.
Malzahn’s goal is to have a starter named by the end of spring.
Switch things up
Two players are making position changes this spring: Neiko Thorpe to safety and Anthony Morgan to running back.
Thorpe, a two-year starter at corner, made the switch before expected starter Mike McNeil was kicked off the team for his alleged involvement in an armed robbery earlier this month.
“We thought that would be best for our football team and best for Neiko,” said defensive coordinator Ted Roof said, who likes Thorpe’s range and vision. “I think it’s a win-win. I think he’s a much better safety than he is a corner.”
Morgan, a junior, has shuttled between offense and defense in his two years but will help provide depth at a running back position with few options beyond Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb.
“He gives us a lot of flexibility,” said Malzahn, who praised Morgan’s pass-catching abilities.
Philip Pierre-Louis’ Auburn career is over. The once-promising wide receiver is no longer on the team, one of four scholarship players with eligibility remaining who were not on the spring roster.
The 5-foot-8 Pierre-Louis was supposed to be the centerpiece of Tony Franklin’s offense in 2008 but blew out his knee on the opening kickoff that year.
He returned but didn’t make a good impression with the new staff until the spring of last year, when he tore his ACL for a second time. He finished his Auburn career with no receptions.
Wide receiver Derek Winter, a fourth-year junior who completed his degree, also did not return, along with a pair of 2009 signees who never played: tight end Robert Cooper and offensive lineman Andre Harris.
Back on the Plains
Offensive lineman Aubrey Phillips is back on the roster as a walk-on, two years after a medical issue prevented him from playing. The 6-foot-5, 344-pound redshirt freshman transferred to Auburn from Florida State in the summer of 2009 before being sidelined for an undisclosed medical condition.
“The situation he went through was really, really serious; it was life-threatening,” right tackle A.J. Greene said. “To see him come back and have the opportunity and have the passion for the game to want to continue to play, it makes me look up at him.”
Phillips worked as a right guard with the second unit during Wednesday’s drills.
Greene said he is close to 100 percent in returning from a broken tibia and dislocated ankle he suffered against Clemson last year. He is a projected starter at right tackle. Brandon Mosley moved to left tackle. … Head coach Gene Chizik was late to practice, struggling with the flu. He was not available for post-practice interviews. … Linebacker Jessel Curry is on the roster but was not at practice. The sophomore played for part of last season before disappearing from the sideline late in the year with no explanation. Roof declined to address Curry’s status. ... Daren Bates, Jake Holland and Jonathan Evans were the first-team linebackers Wednesday, with Eltoro Freeman working some in the middle for Holland.