AUBURN, Ala. -- Only days before the biggest football game of his life, Auburn quarterback Barrett Trotter was the picture of calm while speaking to reporters.
Anything different lately, Barrett?
“Not really,” Trotter said in his Southern drawl. “It’s pretty much the same ol’, same ol’.”
The fourth-year junior out of Birmingham will try to extend Auburn’s winning streak for first-time starting quarterbacks to five when he takes the field against Utah State on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Trotter, who emerged as the starter after a months-long battle with Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier, isn’t putting any undue pressure on himself. Nor is anyone else.
“We’ve talked about it briefly, and my words were simply this: You’re Barrett Trotter. Don’t try to be somebody else,” Tigers head coach Gene Chizik said.
“He doesn’t need to try to be Cam Newton, he doesn’t need to try to be Chris Todd or Jason Campbell. He needs to be Barrett Trotter. Really and truly, that’s about the length of the discussion. I think he understands that.”
Never too high, never too low: that’s Trotter. The patience has served the junior well through three occasionally-trying years on the Plains.
He had a number of offers from lower-profile schools coming out of Briarwood Christian in 2008 -- Army, Duke, Samford, UAB and Troy were all on his list -- but ultimately signed with the Tigers that February.
Trotter came to Auburn during a transition time, however. He committed when Al Borges was offensive coordinator but never played for him, redshirting his first year during the failed Tony Franklin experiment.
A coaching staff overhaul brought a clean slate in the 2009, with Gus Malzahn taking the offense’s reins, but Trotter tore his ACL in the spring, dropping out of the quarterback derby.
By the time he returned, the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Newton was in town and every other quarterback on the roster was playing for a backup spot.
“All those things are struggles,” Trotter said. “At the same time, you’re working toward a goal. That keeps you pushing.”
Now, Trotter has been around at Auburn so long he earned his degree before his first career start.
Nobody expects him to be Newton, the dual-threat Heisman Trophy winner who re-wrote SEC and NCAA record books. Few quarterbacks have ever had that kind of athleticism.
But teammates think Trotter has his own strengths, which are carved from years in the system.
“I think his decision-making,” cornerback T’Sharvan Bell said. ”In practice, he doesn’t throw a lot of picks. Every quarterback’s going to throw picks, but as far as like a third down, his awareness is great as far as where he needs to get for a first down. The fans will be surprised by that.”
Nobody’s going to confuse the 6-foot-2, 207-pound Trotter with Newton, a physical freak whose biggest asset was his running ability. Trotter can move but admits he won’t be running the option read a whole lot.
It’s one of the many differences between the two, both on and off the field.
Newton was a phenomenon on campus, a head-turner everywhere he went. Trotter hasn’t encountered the same kind of recognition.
“I don’t walk around with a poster or anything,” he joked.
“I’m just kind of another guy walking around most of the time. Some people recognize me and a lot of people don’t.”
The anonymous quarterback isn’t lacking in motivation.
“I feel like I still have something to prove,” Trotter said. “Just winning the starting spot doesn’t prove anything about how I’m going to do when I’m out there.”
First starts for Auburn QBs
Cam Newton, Sept. 4, 2010 vs. Arkansas State (52-26 win) -- 9-14, 186 yards, 3 TD, 171 rushing yards, 2 TD
Chris Todd, Sept. 6, 2008 vs. Southern Miss (27-13 win) -- 21-31, 248 yards, 0 TD
Kodi Burns, Sept. 22, 2007 vs. New Mexico State (55-20 win) -- 1-5, 58 yards, 1 TD, 20 rushing yards
Blake Field, Sept. 24, 2005 vs. Western Kentucky (37-14 win) -- 13-22, 200 yards, 3 TD
Brandon Cox, Sept. 3, 2005 vs. Georgia Tech (23-14 loss) -- 22-44, 342 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT
Daniel Cobb, Oct. 20, 2001 vs. Louisiana Tech (48-41 win) -- 28-48, 381 yards, 5 TD, 4 INT
Jason Campbell, Sept. 1, 2001 vs. Ball State (30-0 win) -- 16-28, 214 yards, 1 TD, 17 rushing yards, 1 TD
Jeff Klein, Oct. 2, 1999 at Tennessee (24-0 loss) -- 15-29, 147 yards, 0 TD, 4 INT
Gabe Gross, Oct. 10, 1998 at Mississippi State (38-21 loss) -- 4-15, 58 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
Ben Leard, Sept. 3, 1998 vs. Virginia (19-0 loss) -- 11-25, 146 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Dameyune Craig, Aug. 31, 1996 vs. UAB (29-0 win) -- 18-31, 183 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT