AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn football has been through nearly two weeks of preseason camp and the Tigers’ home opener against Georgia Southern is three weeks away.
That means Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is gearing up to decide on starters, including a quarterback, for 2017.
“Well, like I said, we’re going to have personnel meetings after this second scrimmage,” Malzahn said Saturday. “I’m not ready to put a timeline, but kind of common sense is you’d like to start putting in the pieces of the puzzle.”
The depth at quarterback, perhaps more than any other individual performances during camp, continues to stand out to the fifth-year coach more than anything.
Auburn’s second scrimmage, just like its first one, was closed to the media. But here’s what we heard about what happened inside Jordan-Hare Stadium on Day 10 of fall camp from coach Gus Malzahn, several players and others who watched the scrimmage on Saturday.
Malzahn said all three scholarship QBs completed at least 1 touchdown pass in the scrimmage on Saturday. Jarrett Stidham tossed a long bomb to Darius Slayton that went for more than 90 yards while Sean White threw a 60-yard-plus score to Nate Craig-Myers.
As has been the case all spring and fall, Malik Willis wasn’t far behind. The freshman threw two touchdown passes. First a long one over 90 yards to Marquis McClain, and then a short pass to Noah Igbinoghene.
Malzahn admits Stidham has shined, but he refuses to overlook White or Willis.
“Yeah, he’s [Stidham] done a lot of good things,” Malzahn said. “He’s a talented young man and, you know, he’s probably carried it on into the fall. I’ve been very impressed with Sean White. I think if you ask Chip [Lindsey, Auburn’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach], Sean’s like a coach on the field. He knows the offense inside and out.”
The most complimentary praise of the day involved Willis. Malzahn even went one step further, admitting that if the freshman was competing during any other year against players with less experience, Willis would likely see the field in his initial year.
“Malik Willis, he’s a guy that I’m real happy with,” Malzahn said. “I mean, he’s been throwing the ball very well. He can extend plays, he can really run and he’s one of our best athletes on our team.”
Freshman quarterback Malik Willis has received rave reviews from Gus Malzahn and Auburn players since he arrived on campus. (Benjamin Wolk/SEC Country).
Willis’ presence on campus this spring has helped the Atlanta native make significant jumps. Lindsey, according to Malzahn, challenged the youngest of the quarterbacks after the spring game and he’s responded. The time around the complex has also allowed the coaching staff to see some of the intangibles they’ve been looking for.
“Playing quarterback is not just all about going out there and playing,” Malzahn said. “There’s a lot more to playing quarterback from a leadership standpoint, setting the tone for practice and everything, studying extra — more than other positions.”
All of that is leading Malzahn to make a declaration he can’t reiterate enough.
“Right now I’d just say the depth of our quarterback position has just really been confirmed,” Malzahn said. “I know Chip would say the same thing.”