Chizik: QB spot 'up for grabs'
by Johnathan Bentley
Jul 18, 2012 | 1695 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Auburn football coach Gene Chizik answers questions during Day 2 of SEC Media Days at Hoover on Wednesday. The Tigers are coming off an 8-5 season in 2011, one year after winning the 2010 National Championship. Photo by: Johnathan Bentley
Auburn football coach Gene Chizik answers questions during Day 2 of SEC Media Days at Hoover on Wednesday. The Tigers are coming off an 8-5 season in 2011, one year after winning the 2010 National Championship. Photo by: Johnathan Bentley
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HOOVER — Gene Chizik had to be feeling a bit of déjà vu Wednesday at SEC Media Days at Hoover.

During last year’s event, the Auburn football coach fielded questions surrounding the Tigers’ next quarterback.

Twelve months later, he’s back in Hoover taking those same questions.

Both Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley are in the mix for the starting job, just as they were a season ago.

So who’s it going to be coach?

“The quarterback situation in general is probably everything that you know it is. It’s up for grabs,” Chizik said. “We’re looking for the guy that can take Auburn and lead them to win football games.

“It’s going to be a battle. Obviously in two-a-days is when that’s going to be decided. You’re going to ask when it’s going to happen. I’m not going to put a timeline on it. However, I will say the sooner the better.”

The Tigers were unable to come up with the quarterback of the future during an up-and-down campaign in 2011. The trio of Frazier, Moseley and Barrett Trotter ranked ninth in the conference in passing offense and only Kentucky and Ole Miss had fewer passing yards than the Tigers.

Trotter elected not to return for the 2012 season, leaving Frazier and Moseley vying for the starting job. Freshman Zeke Pike enrolled at Auburn in January and went through the spring with the Tigers, but was sent home following an arrest on a charge of public intoxication in June.

The Auburn offense is under new coordinator Scot Loeffler this season after the departure of Gus Malzahn, who is now the head coach at Arkansas State. Loeffler, who runs a pro-style offense, is known for his work with quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Tim Tebow during their collegiate days.

That’s the kind of resumé Chizik was looking for.

“Scot has been great with developing quarterbacks. I think that’s been his forte. He has had a lot of different experiences in his background as an offensive coach. He’s a tremendous quarterback-developing type of football coach. That’s very important. He has experience in this league, which is extremely important,” Chizik said of Loeffler, who served as the quarterback coach at both Michigan and Florida as well as the Detroit Lions.

“That’s a comfortable position for him, he is really good at it. It’s been good to watch him work with our quarterbacks. I think the importance of it is paramount. It was a pretty seamless transition. I think our quarterbacks have embraced it.”

So have offensive weapons Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen.

“All of the quarterbacks have progressed. I think coach Loeffler knows what he’s talking about when it comes to being a great quarterback coach. I’m excited to see what they do during the fall,” said Blake, who has already noticed a difference in Frazier’s game.

“(Kiehl) has just changed so much. He’s come so far and such a long way since coach Loeffler got there. Just with his attitude. He’s always had a big arm. When he first got to Auburn last year, he was throwing darts. We were like, ‘Man, he’s throwing the ball hard.’ But his progressions and his reads have gotten so much better. It’s gotten him confident. That’s all a quarterback really needs, is confidence.”

Blake led the Tigers with 36 receptions for 613 yards and five touchdowns in 2011.

Lutzenkirchen has also seen Frazier’s game take a step forward.

“Kiehl has taken that leadership role,” he said. “I think last year being a true freshman trying to lead an offense, he wasn’t that comfortable with it. Now, he’s kind of assumed it’s an opportunity for him to take the reins of this offense. He’s gained everyone’s respect with what he’s done this off-season. I think that’s just really good for his mentality and his confidence going into this fall.”

Lutzenkirchen caught 24 passes for 238 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns last season.

The new-look Tigers — Auburn also welcomes in new defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder — will get a test right away with the season opener against Clemson set for Sept. 1 in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Clemson ended Auburn’s 17-game winning streak in Week 3 last year with a 38-24 victory.

“I’m excited. It really causes you to be focused on the offseason. You know the first game you have to be ready because if you’re not, they’re going to beat you. I think it’s gotten our team focused because we know who we have for the first game. We have a tough team in the ACC right there.”

A new wrinkle to the schedule includes new SEC member Texas A&M, which makes the trip to Auburn on Oct. 27.

Blake, who is from Austin, is looking forward to the matchup. “I’m from Texas, so I grew up around Big 12 schools. For me to be able to play A&M is a privilege for me and I’m excited,” he said.

Junior defensive lineman Corey Lemonier welcomes the challenge as well.

“I think it’s going to be great for us to play an offense like Texas A&M’s as we don’t get to see it as often in the SEC,” Lemonier said. “So much of what we as a defense contend with on a weekly basis is geared towards power running — and I think the Aggies inclusion into the league will help us branch out and gain experience with other types of offenses.”