Frazier’s start, circumstances much tougher
by Joe Medley
Oct 03, 2012 | 3186 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier looks past an LSU defensive end earlier this season. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier looks past an LSU defensive end earlier this season. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
AUBURN — By now, most have heard the story about ex-Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell calling the current holder of that position and encouraging Kiehl Frazier through his early struggles.

Don’t worry what others say, Frazier has relayed. Play for your teammates.

What Campbell apparently didn’t say and should have? The fun is only beginning.

There are loose comparisons between Frazier’s struggles as Auburn’s first-year starter and Campbell’s back in 2001, but here’s the thing.

Frazier is only on his first coordinator/position coach change, and his numbers through four starts? Let’s just say Campbell’s would be an improvement.

The good news for Frazier is that start No. 5 comes Saturday, against an Arkansas team that ranks 117th nationally and last in the expanded 14-team SEC in pass defense.

Maybe Frazier can get on the path toward finishing his career the way Campbell did, leading the Tigers to an undefeated season and making himself a first-round NFL draft pick.

But Frazier, a sophomore, has a long way to go. At this point in their careers, Campbell looked more likely to get there.

It’s interesting, however, to trace their beginnings.

Campbell was considered the South’s No. 2 quarterback coming out of high school, behind Brock Berlin. He was a Parade All-American and Gatorade Player of the Year in Mississippi.

Auburn was so satisfied to land Campbell that Tommy Tuberville’s staff yawned on Phillip Rivers.

Frazier was the USA Today National Offensive Player of the Year and the nation’s No. 2 quarterback prospect, according to Inc. He made Auburn fans say, Tyrik who?

Frazier and Campbell waited a year for their chance to be starters. Campbell redshirted in 2000, and Frazier played in a change-of-pace, wildcat role behind starters Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley.

That’s where these roads fork.

At least Campbell became a starter under the coordinator/position coach who signed him and molded him during his redshirt year, Noel Mazzone. Campbell’s coordinator carousel --- four in four years --- started after the 2001 season.

In one-plus year on campus, Frazier has gone from Gus Malzahn and a spread offense to Scot Loeffler and more of a pro style, under-center offense. The difference is stark.

Also, consider the talent around Campbell in 2001. A running back like Carnell Williams or Anniston product Casinious Moore, who had multiple 100-yard games that year, would help Frazier, especially in a pro-style offense.

Also, Campbell had a much more veteran offensive line. Among those protecting him were seniors Kendall Simmons, Hart McGarry and Mike Pucillo and junior center Ben Nowland.

Auburn’s experience up front played a role in Campbell getting the starting nod as a redshirt freshman over the older Daniel Cobb.

Frazier’s line includes two sophomores and two freshmen, but Auburn doesn’t have a near-equal option. He has more upside than Moseley. Jonathan Wallace is a true freshman.

It’s also worth noting that Frazier has lost to three teams currently ranked --- No. 15 Clemson, No. 20 Mississippi State and No. 4 LSU.

Campbell’s first four starts came against Ball State, Ole Miss, Syracuse and Vanderbilt --- all unranked.

Those situational nuances alone might explain why Campbell’s numbers through four starts were at least not disastrous like Frazier’s.

Campbell was 3-1 compared to Frazier’s 1-3 slog.

Campbell threw three touchdown passes and two interceptions, Frazier two touchdown passes and seven picks.

One of Frazier’s touchdown passes was a Hail Mary just before halftime against Louisiana-Monroe. His interceptions have been ugly --- sailing overthrows, obvious forces, hand-slap-to-forehead stuff.

Frazier also fumbled twice against Mississippi State, so the word “struggles” doesn’t exactly capture how awful he has looked. Campbell just looked mediocre early on.

Just like the team around him, Frazier has longer to go to end his career like Campbell did or even end his first year as a starter where Campbell did … in a bowl game.

As the nuances of their situations show, it’s not all Frazier’s fault.

Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.
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