Both quarterbacks have made progress assimilating — or re-assimilating — Gus Malzahn’s up-tempo offense, but neither player has taken control of the race to be Auburn’s starter this fall. According to new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee:
“They’re splitting the reps right now. Nothing will change. One guy will do a little better one day; one the other, maybe. They’ve been pretty even. They’ve been great. They’ve been competing hard.”
Competing hard? Probably. Both being “great?” Probably not.
Regular readers of this site know that we’re not exactly fans of the two-quarterback system unless two quarterbacks with very different styles are used… with one being used as a change-of-pace guy only. In most other cases involving two similar quarterbacks who perform at the same level, an old saying usually holds true — “Show me a team with two good quarterbacks and I’ll show you a team lacking one great quarterback.”
Here’s a comparison of Frazier and Walker from last season:
On paper, Wallace was clearly the better quarterback last year, albeit in a different offense. But a deeper look inside the numbers suggests he performed best when the pressure was off. (Who doesn’t?)
With Auburn ahead or trailing by 15 or more points, Wallace was 31-of-53 for 525 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions. On the field when Auburn was within 14 points either way of its opponent, Wallace was 15-of-27 for 195 yard, no TDs, and one pick. That’s quite a drop.
Frazier’s numbers were better with the pressure dialed down, too, but he had fewer of those opportunities. With Auburn separated from it’s foe by 15 or more points, Frazier was 15-of-22 for 190 yards, no touchdowns and a pick. When games had a 14-point spread or less, he dropped off to 47-of-94, two scores, and seven INTs.
The verdict? While Wallace performed better than Frazier last year, his successes must be tempered by the knowledge that he got most of his work when games were already getting out of hand. Frazier, meanwhile, saw his chances disappear as the season wore on. He attempted just 13 passes over Auburn’s final seven games.
The wild card in this might be both quarterback’s legs. With Malzahn running the Tiger offense in 2011, it was clear he trusted the freshman Frazier’s legs more than his arm. Frazier threw just 12 passes for Malzahn that season… while carrying the ball 76 times for 327 yards and three scores.
So will Malzahn, back now as head coach, trust Wallace’s arm and legs? Has he come to respect Frazier’s passing ability? Or if neither QB looks like he’ll become a reliable passer, will he trust Frazier’s legs more than Wallace’s?
With spring practice winding down, there’s no way to tell what conclusions Malzahn and Lashlee are drawing yet.