Auburn Team News

A welcome change: Gus Malzahn pleased with Auburn’s quarterback depth

Jarrett Stidham
COURTESY AUBURN ATHLETICS

Since the end of Nick Marshall’s time on the Plains, Auburn fans have fretted over quarterbacks. Tigers coach Gus Malzahn thinks spring practice may have ended those woes.

Malzahn said the Tigers’ strength in depth at the position improved during spring practice in an interview Thursday with Birmingham radio station 99.1 The Game.

“If there’s one thing I’m pleased with, it’s probably the depth at that position right now,” Malzahn said. “We left spring with some quality depth, some good competition, and competition brings out the best in everyone.”

In addition to Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham and 2016 starter Sean White, true freshman Malik Willis staked a claim for playing time. Malzahn said Willis “really came on and had a good spring.”

RELATED: Spring encouraging, but Auburn won’t know about Jarrett Stidham until Clemson game

But Tigers fans shouldn’t expect an announcement as to the starter any time soon.

“We’ll take it to fall camp and figure out who the best one is,” Malzahn said.

That quarterback likely will be throwing long more often than in recent seasons at Auburn. Malzahn said he expects offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey will place an “emphasis on the deep ball,” which should in turn mesh well with the talents of returning running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson.

“That’s what we’re going to do next year,” Malzahn said. “When we’ve been our best, we’ve been able to run the football and throw it deep.”

Like several other coaches in the SEC, including Georgia’s Kirby Smart and South Carolina’s Will Muschamp, Malzahn opposed the recently passed NCAA proposal that places new restrictions on the hiring of coaches from high schools.

“There’s a lot of high school coaches that deserve a chance to be in college and be successful that are going to no longer have that chance,” Malzahn said.

RELATED: Former Auburn QB Jason Campbell likes what he saw from Jarrett Stidham

The path to success in college coaching, Malzahn said, will be much narrower than before.

“You’ve got to be young enough now to try to find a GA (graduate assistant) role. Those are tough to get,” he said. “Or you’ve got to be fortunate enough to be able to be hired on the field immediately at a certain school. Really, that’s the only two avenues that you’re going to have, and that’s going to limit a whole lot of really good high school coaches.”

Malzahn said he welcomes the addition of a 10th assistant to the staff, but he has “not gotten that far” in determining what role that assistant will have on his staff or even whether the coach will be on offense or defense. Still, he’s looking forward to the change, which will take effect in January 2018.

“I think you’ll see execution on the field at a higher level once that guy gets here,” he said.

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