HOOVER, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn spent a lot of his time at the podium Wednesday at the SEC media days discussing Auburn’s quarterbacks.
Not that it should come as any surprise given the unsettled nature of the position for the Tigers, as four different players are vying for the open spot. Two are players who started games for Auburn last year in junior Kiehl Frazier and sophomore Jonathan Wallace. The other two are new additions to the program in junior college transfer and former Wilcox County standout Nick Marshall and true freshman Jeremy Johnson.
Malzahn refused to play favorites, saying the coaching staff enters preseason camp with “an open mind.”
“Any time you’re going to have four guys, that’s definitely a concern,” he said. “I felt very strong we knew about the two guys in spring, but I wanted to give those two new guys a fair chance. We’ll be doing things a little bit different in fall camp early, and hopefully one of those guys will emerge sooner rather than later.”
Identifying who the starter will be is the team’s “No. 1 priority” heading into the fall, according to Malzahn. He also said he plans “to be as honest” as possible with all the quarterbacks to let them know where they stand in the race, whether that means daily, weekly or bi-weekly updates.
One thing Malzahn refused to accept was making a rash decision.
“The No. 1 thing we need to do is make sure that we’re right,” he said.
Whoever lands the job will have to build chemistry with a go-to receiver.
Emory Blake was the unquestioned “go-to” option at wideout last season, and the numbers bear it out. Blake account for a staggering 42 percent of the Tigers’ receiving yardage, tallying 789 of the team’s 1,879 yards.
Malzahn said it was imperative Auburn finds someone to fill the void left by Blake.
“We’ve got to have somebody step up and be a go-to guy, somebody that wants the ball on third down, wants the ball when the game is on the line,” he said. “In the spring, we tried to put them in as many situations as we can, and at times, all guys responded. But somebody has got to emerge.”
Malzahn confirmed that receiver signee Earnest Robinson is planning on enrolling in junior college. Malzahn said the status of another possible junior college enrollee, Jason Smith, “is still up in the air.” ... All returning players should be healthy and ready to start preseason practice Aug. 2, Malzahn said. The only question mark is defensive end Keymiya Harrell. “Harrell is a guy that we’ll see as we go, but things are looking pretty good right now.”