War Eagle Extra

Gus Malzahn in midseason form dodging questions about Auburn’s quarterbacks

Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham works out Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, during the first day of spring football practice at the Auburn Athletics Complex in Auburn, Ala.
Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham works out Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, during the first day of spring football practice at the Auburn Athletics Complex in Auburn, Ala. AP

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn doesn’t have much to say about the team’s most high profile position battle.

The Tigers practiced in pads Saturday for the first time this spring, but Malzahn offered few details about how his top quarterbacks performed.

Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham had a “pretty good” day while Woody Barrett looks “confident.”

Malzahn’s reluctance to share substantive information is his default position when discussing Auburn’s offense, but he’s been particularly tight-lipped about Stidham since the quarterback arrived in December as an early-enrollee.

“His skill set is that he’s a very talented young man,” Malzahn said in December. “He can make all the throws, he can run, he can extend plays. He’s very accurate. He’s got good leadership. He’s a mature young man.”

That’s about all Malzahn has said about the quarterback taking reps with the first team offense.

Malzahn said Stidham was “off to a good start” when the coach visited the Senior Bowl and only made brief mention of Stidham on national signing day.

“I think he has a chance to be a very good football player,” Malzahn said. “He is coming in to compete for the starting job at quarterback.”

When asked this spring about Stidham specifically, Malzahn has talked about the group at quarterback collectively.

“I think he (Stidham) is like everyone else,” Malzahn said Tuesday. “We want him to improve and get a good understanding of the offense and to evaluate him, but that goes for everyone out there. He just happens to be a new quarterback. With all the guys, we want to see what they can do and get a good understanding of them and get a good understanding of the offense and the defense.”

Malzahn was a little more forthcoming talking about Malik Willis, a true freshman with little chance of winning the starting job this year.

Here is the full exchange on the quarterbacks from Saturday:

Q: What was the quarterback split in the good on good group?

Malzahn: Oh, um, you know I think Chip tried to rotate just as many as he could. Really, I can’t remember exactly how it went. I mean they all got a chance to get out there with the orange and the blue and did a little bit of white too.

Q: How did Jarrett look?

Malzahn: Pretty good, I think all of our quarterbacks did a solid job and looked good.

Q: Is John still working at quarterback?

Malzahn: Yes, he worked with the quarterbacks. He also got some reps at some receiver too, but he was primarily with the quarterbacks.

Q: Gus what’s the early takeaway on Malik Willis? What have you seen out of him?

Malzahn: Malik’s got a very strong arm and that’s really what stands out to me right now. It’s just a matter of getting used to a new offense and everything that goes with it. There’s a lot of moving parts just with the communication before the play and then you got the play and the reads and everything that goes with that. He’s got a real good attitude but he’s got a really strong arm

Q: What about Woody, how’s he kind of looking?

Malzahn: You can tell Woody’s more confident than he was and starting to settle in. He’s got a real strong arm too.

Q: Chip talked about cutting down the reps on quarterback this spring, will it be next week? Or later this spring?

Malzahn: Yeah, I’m leaving that up to Chip. I think he’s just got to — once he feels a certain way, he’ll make the call.

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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