Auburn University

Who will be starting QB, and who is calling plays? Auburn takeaways from SEC Media Days

Auburn’s Derrick Brown talks about setting an example for younger players at SEC Media Days 2019

Auburn's Derrick Brown spoke with media at SEC Media Days 2019 about the importance of setting an example for younger players.
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Auburn's Derrick Brown spoke with media at SEC Media Days 2019 about the importance of setting an example for younger players.

Who will be the Auburn Tigers starting quarterback? Fans will have to wait a bit longer for the answer.

Head coach Gus Malzahn said he would name a starter after fall camp. This gives Malzahn a chance to better evaluate where his quarterbacks — Joey Gatewood, Bo Nix and Cord Sandberg — stand. It also gives the quarterbacks more chances to take snaps in game-like situations against a full defense.

Malzahn said he wants to name a starter “sooner rather than later.” Thus, Auburn remains without a starting signal-caller ahead of its August 31 matchup with Oregon in the Advocare Classic (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

Here are some other things you might have missed from Auburn’s SEC Media Days appearance.

Malzahn wants quarterbacks to be a ‘run threat’

Midway through a press conference, Malzahn was asked about the importance of converting on third down. The Tigers, for context, converted about 36% of their third downs a season ago, a number Malzahn wants to increase to 40%.

Malzahn’s answer briefly touched on third down importance and quickly turned into an answer about quarterbacks.

“Third down, especially in our league, is vital to keep drives alive,” Malzahn said. “So the years we’ve won championships, I think we’ve been in the 40s. That’s definitely a goal of ours.

“Our quarterbacks will be a run threat. And when you have a run threat at quarterback, it really does change things from a defensive standpoint. And from a play caller standpoint, it gives you a lot more flexibility, too.”

Fans remember all too well the success Malzahn’s offense had in 2013, when running threat and then-quarterback Nick Marshall nearly led the Tigers to a national championship. Former quarterback Jarrett Stidham never quite blossomed into the rushing threat Malzahn’s offense needed. He never really was one to begin with: Stidham ran for 70 yards in his one season at Baylor, then 154 yards in two seasons combined at Auburn.

Jeremy Johnson and Sean White were fairly one-dimensional quarterbacks as well, though White ran for 186 yards in two seasons.

Compare White and Stidham’s numbers to Marshall’s (1,068 yards in 2013 and 798 in 2014), and it becomes clear why Malzahn wants a running threat at quarterback: He’s not had one since 2014.

“(Gatewood and Nix) are very athletic,” Malzahn said. “They can create things when things break down. They have big-time arms.”

Malzahn back to calling plays for the foreseeable future

Malzahn did not mince words when he discussed calling plays.

Malzahn called himself an “offensive guy” and said he “made a mistake” when he surrendered play calling duties to then-offensive coordinator Rhett lashlee and again to Chip Lindsey the following season.

Malzahn resumed play calling duties during the Tigers’ blowout Music City Bowl win over Purdue.

“I just decided to get back to being me and call plays,” Malzahn said. “It’s been a very refreshing thing. I know the bowl game we played really well, but when I’m back in the swing of things, the day-in-and-day-out coaching on the field, what happens is the whole team takes on my personality. It just feels natural.”

Tigers travel to Gainesville for Gators’ homecoming

Auburn renews its rivalry with Florida in 2019. It will serve as the first matchup between the two sides since 2011, and this season’s game will have a little extra flavor to it.

October 5 is the Auburn-Florida game, the Gators’ homecoming game. The Gators played Missouri twice and LSU for its previous three homecoming games, so it’s by no means out of the ordinary for UF to host a stronger opponent for a game traditionally reserved for the weaker opponents on a team’s schedule.

“We haven’t been to Florida in a long time and noticed that we’re their homecoming opponent,” Malzahn said. “We have not been too many people’s homecoming opponents in the past.”

More SEC Media Days coverage from the Ledger-Enquirer:

How the Tigers are embracing their brutal 2019 schedule.

Malzahn on the never-ending hot-seat cycle.

Defense thinks it could be Malzahn’s best in 2019.

Keep up with the Ledger-Enquirer’s coverage of Auburn athletics here, and follow along on Twitter (@WarEagleExtra) and Facebook.

Joshua Mixon is a reporter for the Ledger-Enquirer. He covers sports (Auburn and preps) and local news, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America. He previously covered Georgia athletics for the Macon Telegraph. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshDMixon.
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