Auburn QB contender Frazier liking possibilities with new offensive coordinator, system
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Mar 25, 2012 | 9547 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AUBURN — There are no guarantees with a new coordinator and position coach, but one senses that a certain sophomore Auburn quarterback really likes the change.

If nothing else, more of a pro-style offense with snaps under center means Kiehl Frazier won’t be pounding his body into the line of scrimmage as much.

“I hope not,” he said with a grin. “I’m not anticipating having to go in and run the sweep all the time, but we’ll see. Whatever coach thinks will be best.”

Auburn’s spring practice began Friday, and Frazier is an intriguing figure locked in the Tigers’ most intriguing position battle.

He came to Auburn as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback prospect in the country, according to Rivals.com.

He saw regular action as a true freshman in 2011, playing mostly the role of wildcat quarterback in the spread-style system run by former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

Malzahn and his spread system are gone.

So is Barrett Trotter, the quarterback who came into last season with game experience, started the first half of the season and finished the last game.

That leaves Frazier to battle true freshman Zeke Pike and junior Clint Moseley, who started the final half of the 2011 season with so-so results, for the starting job.

They’ll battle under new coordinator and quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, who has worked with quarterbacks ranging from a runner like Tim Tebow to a pro-style master like Tom Brady.

Loeffler ran a pro-style offense in his one season as a coordinator, at Temple, and that appears to be Auburn’s direction. He and Auburn head coach Gene Chizik have hinted as much.

Anyone who saw video of Auburn’s opening day of spring practice saw quarterbacks taking snaps under center and working extensively on dropback footwork. Loeffler said he’ll run some shotgun formation, but it looks clear that Auburn will have quarterbacks that run sometimes.

The days of running backs who throw sometimes appear to be over, and that alone seems to bring a smile to Frazier’s face.

But listen closely to Frazier, and one hears someone who likes his new situation. For starters, he comes into the race with game experience and a much better competitive position than he had going into this past fall.

He’s a serious contender in the race.

“It’s definitely exciting,” he said. “Just having me and Clint and Zeke out there working together is fun.”

Loeffler also allows quarterbacks more leeway to change plays at the line of scrimmage, something else Frazier seems to like.

“We’ll have a little bit more freedom at the line to kind of pick a play,” he said. “Coach Loeffler will be calling 95 percent of the plays, but we’ll have more leeway.

“… He’s different, because last year, we really didn’t make any calls at all. All I did last year was, ‘black, black, go!’ This year, it’s a lot different.”

Frazier also says Loeffler gets more excited in practice, whereas Malzahn was “more kind of strictly business.”

Again, it’s very early in the race for Auburn’s starting quarterback. Loeffler has said he doesn’t expect to announce a starter before August.

Loeffler certainly won’t betray any leaning, saying only that his quarterbacks are handling all of the new terminology well in the early going.

Everything is a matter of reading tea leaves, but one senses that Frazier sees, at the very least, a fresh start with a wider universe of opportunities opening to him.

He certainly seems motivated, and his motivation shows in visible weight gain. He said he has bulked up about 15 pounds during the offseason.

With added weight comes added arm strength, one would think. Based on what little Frazier showed of his passing skills in 2011, he could use it.

He completed five of 12 passes for 34 yards, and nearly all of his completions were quick screens caught at or behind the line of scrimmage. Malzahn rarely let him throw downfield, and two down-field attempts resulted in interceptions at Arkansas.

Frazier’s longest completion was 14 yards, and that won’t do in a pro-style offense, even with the run-first emphasis Chizik and Loeffler have touted.

If Frazier shows the down-field passing dimension needed to loosen defenses for the run, then he would seem hard to beat in Auburn’s quarterback race.

He has shown he can run, finishing as Auburn’s third-leading rusher in 2011 with 327 yards and three touchdowns.

He averaged 4.3 yards a run, and added bulk will only help him in that aspect of his game.

Moseley averaged a minus-3.2, meaning that most of his 25 attempts were sacks.

But Auburn’s quarterback race will come down to which quarterback masters life under Loeffler the most. Embracing is the first step to mastering, and Frazier seems to have that step down.

“It’s just spring right now,” he said. “Really, I’m just more worried about getting better right now than who’s starting and all of that.”

Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576, or follow on Twitter@jmedley_star.

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