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Nov 1, 2014
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  Football Preview: Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers

Auburn fans are ready to put last year's dismal season in their rear-view mirror. With a familiar face returning as head coach and a whole new coaching staff, fans are excited for the 2013 season.

The 2012 season was a disaster from the beginning, with the Tigers starting 1-2, then losing the next five. The icing on the cake was Texas A&M's trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium and the 63-21 thrashing by the Aggies. A change had to be made after Auburn's 3-9 season, the worst in 60 years.

A long list of names surfaced as possible hires to replace Gene Chizik but Auburn knew there was only one who would re-energize the program and fan base. The one was Gus Malzahn.

Malzahn helped turn the program around when he was hired as offensive coordinator in 2009. During his three-year tenure from 2009-11, his offenses set numerous school records and played a huge role in Auburn winning the national championship in 2010.

Malzahn returns to the Plains after a one-year stint as head coach at Arkansas State. Malzahn's first job as a head coach was a success after the Red Wolves finished the season with a 9-3 record and a 7-1 conference mark while capturing the Sun Belt Conference title.

Rhett Lashlee also returns to the Plains after spending the 2009 and 2010 seasons as an offensive graduate assistant. Lashlee has spent six of the last nine seasons working closely with Malzahn, including serving as Arkansas State's offensive coordinator last year. The Red Wolves' offense ranked 17th nationally in total offense (481.8 ypg), 21st in scoring offense (36.4 ppg) and rushing offense (217.4 ypg).

Lashlee's job as Auburn's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach will be to revamp an offense that ranked 115th nationally in total offense and No. 112 in scoring a year ago.
Jonathan Wallace
Jonathan Wallace
(Photo courtesy of AUTigers.com)

The struggles on offense last year were a direct result of inconsistent play by the three different starters at the quarterback position. Kiehl Frazier was 1-4 as the starter and went 62-for-116 for 753 yards with two touchdowns and eight interceptions. Clint Moseley, who is no longer with the team, earned a few starts in the middle of the season before being benched in favor of freshman Jonathan Wallace. Wallace was 1-2 as the starter and went 46-for-80 for 720 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.

Frazier and Wallace battled each other all spring for the No. 1 spot but camp ended without a clear winner. Malzahn and Lashlee expect the battle to continue well into fall camp with newcomers Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson joining the competition.

Marshall, a junior college transfer from Garden City (Kan.) Community College, has a good chance to start because of his athletic ability but his 20 interceptions last year may give the coaches a reason to doubt whether or not he can be successful against top-notch SEC defenses.

Under center, Marshall led Garden City to a 7-4 record and threw for 3,142 yards with 18 touchdowns and added 1,095 yards with 19 touchdowns on the ground.

Fresh out of high school, Johnson finished his career at Carver in Montgomery with 8,732 passing yards and 85 touchdown passes. Carver posted a 28-10 record with Johnson as the starter the last three seasons.

Another sore spot for Auburn last year was the play at wide receiver. Since Auburn plans to take eight shots down the field per game, wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig must find a true playmaker to take the place of last year's star Emory Blake.
Jaylon Denson
Jaylon Denson
(Photo courtesy of AUTigers.com)

At the X receiver position, Jaylon Denson and Sammie Coates have the potential to haul in those long passes down the field. Denson caught just one pass for 12 yards last season, but emerged as a big-play threat along with Coates in the spring.

Coates showed promise last season but was guilty of dropping way too many catchable passes. He finished with six catches for 114 yards, and two touchdowns.

At slot receiver, Quan Bray was named the starter after spring with Corey Grant as his backup. With 31 catches for 187 yards during his career, Bray returns as the Tigers' leading receiver.

Trovon Reed looks to be the starter at the flanker position after he caught nine passes for 122 yards and a touchdown in 2012. Ricardo Louis will serve as Reed's backup. Louis caught just three passes for 36 yards in 2012 but is capable of using his speed when the Tigers need a big play.

At the Y position, the hybrid tight end/wide receiver spot, C.J. Uzomah will be the main guy with plenty of size to open up holes for the tailbacks as well as a dependable receiver at tight end. Uzomah had seven catches for 136 yards and a touchdown in 2012.

Backup Brandon Fulse is the better blocker of the two with just three catches for 20 yards the past two seasons.

Phil Marion

Next week: Running Backs

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