"Don't ask for guarantees....Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore."
–Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
After Auburn's season from hell last year, it came as little surprise that the two newcomers in its four-way quarterback race, freshman Jeremy Johnson and JUCO transfer Nick Marshall, would be the ones to take the lead.
What wasn't quite expected was the reaction of Kiehl Frazier, last year's starting QB out of camp and a former recruit of Gus Malzahn, who recently moved to safety when it became clear he wouldn't win the job under center.
According to Joel Erickson of AL.com:
Malzahn and [offensive coordinator Rhett] Lashlee sat down with the quarterbacks on Sunday afternoon to reveal that Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson had taken the lead and would get most of the snaps going forward.
Frazier, who opened last season as the starter and held that role through the first five games, responded with a suggestion of his own.
"As we were talking to Kiehl Frazier and told him the plan, he brought up the idea that, 'Coach, I want to help the team anyway I can," Malzahn said. "We talked earlier that day and came back the next day and Kiehl moved to safety today."
Frazier's move isn't just selfless—it shows an acute and admirable sense of self-awareness.
When he took over the job last season, he was, like every Tigers QB in the post-Cam Newton era, compared to the team's former Heisman winner. A highly touted recruit coming out of high school, it would have been easy for Frazier to buy into that hype (regardless of his spot on the depth chart), pout like a diva and transfer when he lost the job. Somebody out there would have taken him and given him a chance to start.
But Frazier loves his team more than his ego and wasn't just willing to make the switch to safety—he suggested it. He wasn't just waiting for one of the coaches to throw him a life preserver—he threw it himself. And now he has a chance to reinvent his career and help the Tigers win in a much different way.
How will he fare at the new position? That much remains to be seen. He certainly has the size (6'2'', 224 pounds) and athleticism that fit a safety's profile. And he played the position in high school, so it's not like he's foreign to the terminology and nuances.
Here's some footage of Frazier playing safety at Shiloh Christian in Arkansas:
Per Erickson's report, Frazier said of the position switch:
I'll be able to help the team at safety—that will be my focus 100 percent. Something I'm fully going to embrace.
I didn't play well [at QB] last year, and that's something that's kind of set in stone. I can't change that now. This will be best for me and the team for me to move to safety.
To say he didn't play well last year might be an understatement. Frazier started the Tigers' first five games before being replaced by Clint Moseley, "leading" the team to a 1-4 record with losses against Clemson, Mississippi State, LSU and Arkansas. He finished with two touchdowns and eight interceptions on 116 passes and, perhaps most shockingly, minus-28 yards on the ground.
Frazier's future wasn't at the quarterback position, so he took his destiny into his own hands. The position switch is, admittedly, a Hail Mary, but hopefully it works out better than the deep balls he actually threw.
It's easy to issue team-first proclamations from positions of personal power. Only when something of individual import (like, say, the chance to start at quarterback) is taken away do those claims get put to the test.
Some college football players—far too many of them—would not put those words into action. They would pledge allegiance to their school so long as it suited them, but defect if they soured on their role. They would ask for someone, anyone, even a rival coach, to step in and help save their career.
But Frazier isn't one of those men. He's doing his own bit of saving and he's doing it for the team he loves. If he drowns out in center field, though it might be difficult to watch, at least he would know he was headed for shore.
And at least that shore would be Navy and Burnt Orange.