The Unanswered Questions Heading into Auburn Football's Spring Game

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterApril 16, 2013

Auburn's spring game will take place this Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but it won't be the end of spring. Monday practices have been postponed on consecutive weeks, which will give Auburn two post-A-Day practices to clean up whatever issues remain for first-year head coach Gus Malzahn's team.

There are quite a few.

That's not something that's impossible to overcome, though. Of the four new head coaches in the SEC in 2013, Malzahn is best-suited for an immediate turnaround thanks to his familiarity with the program and the undeveloped talent on the roster.

What are Auburn's biggest issues remaining on the table?


Quarterback Race

The battle between rising junior Kiehl Frazier and rising sophomore Jonathan Wallace is ongoing. But one thing that has to be reassuring to Auburn fans is that, by all accounts, the offense is performing well in scrimmage situations.

Auburn's spring practices have been closed to the public and the media, but both quarterbacks have been positive in postgame interviews following each of Auburn's two major spring scrimmages.

While neither quarterback did much during game action last season to instill confidence within the Auburn program and fan-base, both of them possess the dual-threat capabilities that can make them serious weapons in the hurry-up, no-huddle attack.

Frazier has more upside. The 2010 USA Today high school offensive player of the year has a big arm to stretch the field and the capabilities to be a dangerous runner outside and between the tackles. The issue with Frazier is his decision-making, which was the primary reason he was pulled at halftime of Auburn's fifth game of 2012.

Wallace has many of the same attributes and led Auburn to two of its three victories last season. He completed 57.5 percent of his passes last season and seemed to have a better idea of what to do with the football than his counterpart. 

According to, new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee doesn't expect to name a starting quarterback after spring practice.

That's fine. But Lashlee, Malzhan and the rest of the Auburn staff should have a good idea about who the leader is, because this team can't afford to wait on a starter to emerge once fall camp starts.


Finding Reliable Wide Receivers

Figuring out who the eventual winner of the quarterback battle will be throwing to is also top of mind for Malzahn. Junior Jaylon Denson has emerged as a threat this spring according to But that's not good enough.

Malzahn's offense is a straight-ahead, power rushing attack, but needs multiple receivers to step up outside to keep opposing defenses honest.

One of those players who needs to step up is Sammie Coates. The 6'2", 201-pound sophomore caught six passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns a year ago, and he seems happy about the direction of the receiving corps, according to

"We started to actually looking like a really good offense," Coates said after Saturday's scrimmage. "We're going to be real good. The pace is coming along. Everything's coming along as a team."

If those two players can step up, it will allow Quan Bray to be the do-everything weapon Onterio McCalebb once was, take some pressure off former composite 5-star prospect Trovon Reed and ease some of the other inexperienced players into the rotation.


Linebacker Issues

Justin Garrett has solidified himself in the hybrid "Star" position in new defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 defense, but the two true linebacker spots remain the subject of a heated battle.

Jake Holland has the most experience at linebacker, and he is learning both the "Mike" and "Will" positions in Johnson's scheme this spring, according to

But don't pencil in Holland for playing time due to his versatility. He has struggled with taking proper angles throughout his Auburn career, and the duo of Kris Frost at "Mike" and Cassanova McKinzy at "Will" have more upside than the rising senior.

Discipline is the key. Can McKinzy and Frost grasp Johnson's scheme? If they can, they have the physical attributes to be stars in the SEC. 

Whoever steps up at linebacker, the Tigers will have to tackle better. That's been a constant headache on the Plains ever since Tommy Tuberville resigned after the 2008 season.

Saturday's A-Day game on the Plains should be interesting. Any coaching staff will tell you that the spring game is just like any other scrimmage. On the surface, that's true. But watching which players step up when the pressure of playing in front of a live crowd is on should be really interesting for this Auburn squad.

If they can get most of their spring questions answered, it will allow Malzahn and his staff the luxury of fine-tuning the depth chart come fall.