In just a few short weeks, the Auburn Tigers head into spring with a number of position battles set to begin. The battle that is receiving the most attention is the quarterback race, and with only two scholarship players on roster heading into spring, the battle is sure to be a close one.
Kiehl Frazier lost the starting job last season, but if he can take what has made him successful in the past and put it together with a strong spring, then he win back the starting job in 2013.
Frazier started his career as the Wildcat quarterback in the Gus Malzahn offense in 2011 after the departure of superman Cam Newton. The Tigers saw what a quarterback with legs could do to defenses, and the hope was that Frazier could come in and become the next star signal-caller for the Tigers.
So far that hasn’t happened.
Taking a look at what Frazier has been able to do in limited action shows that he has the ability to be a solid quarterback, but his overall body of work includes irreversible errors.
Let's take a look at three of Frazier’s past plays that display elite quarterback ability, and one that helped sideline his 2012 campaign.
One of the staples in the Gus Malzahn offense is the quarterback option-read. The quarterback is put in a position to read the defensive end and either hand off the running back or keep the ball to earn yards himself.
Here we see Frazier as a true freshmen in 2011 running the option-read against Arkansas.
Frazier is standing in the offset shotgun formation (marked by blue) with a twins set to the tight side of the field.
Once Frazier takes the snap in this shot, you see a guard move into position to pull, both up-backs shift to the left to find blocks and the slot moves into motion.
At the point that the ball-carrier meets the QB, Frazier eyes the defensive end (marked in yellow) and sees the outside linebacker (marked in red) following the slot man.
In the third and final shot, the field opens and the lane is set. Frazier plants and takes one-cut up the field. This was a well executed play by Frazier as a true freshman, and it is the play that drove the Tigers to the national title in 2010.
Expect this look often in 2013.
Frazier has mastered this play and always seems to find some level of success with it. He needs more than just one play, however, if he plans on earning the start.
The option-read will be a play that is worked over and over this spring, and Auburn will rely on it to move the chains this fall. Frazier has to show that he can make these types of plays consistently in spring ball.
Fighting off Jonathan Wallace won't be easy this spring, as he has mastered this call as well.
Shotgun Snap Inside Own Red Zone
Here is a look at Kiehl Frazier against Arkansas in 2012.
In this set, you see a confident Frazier take a shotgun snap inside the five-yard line.
In the next screenshot, you see the three defenders playing zone, and Emory Blake making the catch in between them.
Frazier made a solid read, and more importantly, made a quality throw from deep inside his own territory. The confidence to make that throw is an intangible quality quarterbacks are born with.
Poise can’t be taught, and it is one trait Frazier shows from time to time.
This spring will be a chance for him to show leadership and prove that his flashes of confidence are not just fleeting flickers of talent.
Frazier must demonstrate that his mojo can be tapped into consistently.
The second set of screenshots is from the same Arkansas game, but it shows Frazier under pressure.
In this screenshot, Frazier (marked by blue) is avoiding a pile of pressure but still manages to step in and release a downfield throw to a receiver in coverage. The defender (marked by a yellow arrow) gets to Frazier just a split second after the ball departs.
The second screenshot shows Sammie Coates making the catch in front of the Arkansas defender.
Notice the deep safety and tight man coverage. Frazier put that football precisely where only his player could snag it. This was another successful play for Frazier, but as Tigers fans know, it hasn't all been good memories for the young Auburn signal-caller.
One piece of Frazier’s game that has issues is his inability to throw the ball away.
Too many times Frazier has tossed the football to opposing defenses when plays breakdown. Frazier will hold the pocket until the very last second, but when it comes to dumping the ball way to the sideline, he has issues.
Here is Frazier in the 2012 against Mississippi State. This was one of the worst interceptions I have ever witnessed.
The first screenshot shows Frazier in the red zone with trips to the left side of the field. The play is a slant route with a quick throw read.
But Frazier delays.
The second screenshot shows that route being run by Emory Blake in the end zone is being blanketed by triple coverage.
It's apparent the throw was delayed, and tossing the football into a zone full of three defenders leads to big losses and losing a starting job at quarterback.
This is a situation that the Tigers should put Frazier in often during spring practice. The coaches need to force Frazier to make reads in a short field against tight zones to see if he can make the right play.
Frazier has to pick his progressions better or this will be a lingering issue.
Winning the Job
At this point the quarterback job is wide open at Auburn.
Kiehl Frazier has played his share of downs for the Tigers, but they haven’t been the best memories for Auburn fans or coaches.
Frazier knows the Malzahn offense—he has played in the system since high school—and this is his first shot at taking over as a starter for a Malzahn led team. Last year Frazier was poised at the start of games, but as he made mistakes and the game wore on, he would get lazy with the ball and lose his concentration.
This spring Frazier has to show that he has the poise he showed at times against Arkansas last year, but he has to show it throughout an entire game.
He has to throw an interception, walk back out on the field and toss a touchdown.
The skills and knowledge are there for Frazier to be a very good quarterback in the SEC, but he has to find a way to keep his focus, or he will be relegated to the bench for good.