*From Auburn Media Relations*
AUBURN – Who will be Auburn’s starting quarterback against Washington State in the season-opener on Aug. 31? Will it be junior Kiehl Frazier? Sophomore Jonathan Wallace? Junior college transfer Nick Marshall? True freshman Jeremy Johnson?
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has a message: If you think you know, you are wrong.
“I get the feeling people have ideas of who is going to be this or who is going to be that,” Lashlee said Monday morning. “There couldn’t be anything further from the truth that we have any idea or that someone has an edge. Jonathan and Kiehl went through spring. They are leading those guys (in voluntary workouts) right now. I’m expecting every one of those guys to come in and compete and do a great job. Nick and Jeremy have to come in and earn the respect of those guys in a relatively short period of time.”
Johnson, a 4-star signee from Carver High School in Montgomery, is already in school and working out with the team. Marshall, Lashlee said, is expected to be on campus and enrolled in school by the end of the week. Both, Lashlee said, will have to learn a lot in a short time.
Lashlee said that once practice starts on Aug. 1, the four will get equal opportunities. But there’ll be precious little time to waste.
“You want to decide as soon as you can so you can start to build around that guy and your team can start to gel,” Lashlee said. “If you are Jeremy or Nick, first impressions are going to be huge. If you are Jonathan or Kiehl, you have to come in and show you’ve made great improvement over the summer.”
Frazier went into last season as the starter. He lost the job after six games to Clint Moseley. Wallace started the last four games.
Marshall, a legendary high school star in Georgia, passed for 3,142 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for 1,095 yards and 18 touchdowns last season at Garden City (Kan.) Community College. His impending arrival has created a surge of expectations.
“I hope people will kind of calm down those expectations,” Lashlee said. “I’ve noticed that the last couple of weeks. He’s one of four guys, and all four guys are going to get a fair and equal shot at the job. Nick and Jeremy are new coming into it, so they are behind. In Jeremy’s case he’s coming right out of high school. But they are both going to be thrown in the fire. Kiehl and Jonathan, of course, got all those reps in the spring. That should give them a leg up on things.
“The first day of fall camp, we are going to give all those guys equal shots and the best guy is going to come out on top.”
Auburn’s last junior college transfer, a guy named Cam Newton, made Auburn history and led the way to the 2010 national championship.
“I think probably a lot of the expectations and hype with Nick come from the last time we had a junior college quarterback things worked out pretty well,” Lashlee said. “And also, if you go to Georgia, two years removed from high school Nick is still a legend over there. To play DB as a true freshman for a year in the SEC and then to go to junior college and do what he did at quarterback lends to the hype.”
But hype won’t be enough to make Marshall the starting quarterback. Even what happens on the field won’t be enough.
“A lot of things that determine how good he will be don’t have anything to do with his athletic ability,” Lashlee said. “His ability speaks for itself. I’ve said before what made Cam great wasn’t just Cam being as gifted as he is. It was his leadership, his intangibles. He’s the most fierce competitor I’ve ever been around in my entire life. I think all those things are what made Cam great.”
For all Marshall’s gaudy junior college numbers, one number was troublesome. He threw 19 interceptions. He’ll have to improve on that number or he’ll either be a backup or watching someone else play.
“Yeah, without a doubt,” Lashlee said. “The two things that are probably going to determine who starts are, No. 1, who will protect the football. It’s hard enough to win in this league when you do everything right. It’s really hard when you are giving them a lot of free possessions and a lot of easy drives and easy points.
“The other is going to be earning the respect of his team. We need a guy that is going to go out and lead that football team. Those are the two things I think will separate who becomes the starter.”
QB’S BY THE NUMBERS
Kiehl Frazier, 6-2, 234, Jr.: Completed 62-of-116 passes for 753 yards and two touchdowns as an Auburn junior. Threw eight interceptions. Rushed nine times for minus-35 yards.
Jonathan Wallace, 6-0, 209, So.: Completed 46-of-80 passes for 720 yards and two touchdowns as an Auburn freshman. Threw four interceptions. Rushed 52 times for 152 yards and no touchdowns.
Nick Marshall, 6-2, 210, Jr.: Passed for 3,142 yards and 19 touchdowns as a sophomore at Garden City (Kan.) Community College. Threw 18 interceptions. Rushed for 1,095 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Jeremy Johnson, 6-5, 215, Fr.: Passed for 3,193 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior at Carver High School in Montgomery. Rushed for 705 yards and seven touchdowns.