I have heard a lot of good things about Auburn’s new offensive coordinator, Scot Loeffler, and his ability to develop quarterbacks, which is one of the most critical areas for fielding a strong football team at any level.
A good example of that is the last big football game of the current season, the Super Bowl, with quarterback Tom Brady leading the New England Patriots and quarterback Eli Manning the key player for the New York Giants. The history of the Super Bowl is that teams that reached that game normally had great quarterback play to take them there.
I think it is exciting for Auburn that its new coordinator has a history of coaching great quarterbacks. Normally, you aren’t going to win any championships in the Southeastern Conference without a quarterback who is really productive. We all know first-hand from the 2010 season what a dynamic quarterback can do for a football team.
It should be interesting to see who emerges as the starter for the Tigers in 2012. Clint Moseley finished the 2011 season as the starter, but Barrett Trotter finished the bowl game after Moseley was hurt and performed well vs. Virginia. However, Trotter is not returning to the team as a fifth-year senior so that leaves Moseley and two others in the competition to be the starter.
This could be the year that Kiehl Frazier takes over as a starter. He played a lot as a true freshman and that experience should be valuable, but he didn’t get many opportunities to pass the football. Frazier has a great opportunity to develop under Loeffler’s coaching and prove he is ready for an expanded role in the offense this fall as a sophomore.
The Tigers also have an early high school graduate on campus, Zeke Pike, who will go through spring training. It would be great if he comes in and turns out to be a star player for the Tigers, but my experience is that when you put a true freshman on the field as your starting quarterback that is usually asking for trouble. Maybe Pike can be an exception to that rule.
Loeffler has experience coaching in different offensive systems so it will be interesting to see how much change in style of play the Tigers will make in 2012. Whatever they do on offense this fall they will be counting on their quarterback to be a clutch performer and that is true for any football team on any level.
The guy running the offense doesn’t have to be the best athlete on the field, but he needs to have the mental toughness to get the job done no matter what his strengths and weaknesses are as an athlete.
In high school I played on a state championship team that featured a quarterback who couldn’t throw a football out of the room I am in sitting in right now, but the guy was a leader and a winner. He made everybody else in that huddle a better player when he was on the field with them.
Auburn won a national championship in 1957 after the starting quarterback was dismissed from the team in the summer and replaced by Lloyd Nix, a guy who was just an adequate passer but a great leader. Coach (Shug) Jordan picked Nix as the starting quarterback because he was the most dependable guy on the team.
That Auburn team didn’t always score a lot of points that ’57 season, but they won all of their games because the quarterback made sure the Tigers didn’t beat themselves with interceptions, fumbles and other mistakes.
It doesn’t matter how talented a quarterback is if he can’t handle the pressure and step up and make plays when plays have to be made to win football games. Guys who can’t do that are mpy going to be leading their teams to championships.
Guys like Cam Newton who have great talent, the ability to perform in the clutch and also don’t beat their team with mistakes, are special players and fun to watch.
When you are playing the position at the college and pro level, it takes a mature, special kind of individual to stand up under the scrutiny and the criticism they are going to get when they don’t play well. It just goes with the territory.
A great example of quarterback who has shown a lot of mental toughness this season is Manning of the Giants. When his team lost four games in a row everybody seemed to be on his case, but he showed the maturity plus the mental and physical toughness to play through that and lead his team to the NFC championship.
There is a lot that goes into winning and losing a football game in addition to your quarterback being what he needs to be, but I don’t think anything is more important than what the quarterback does or doesn’t do. I think Auburn head coach Gene Chizik understands that. I also believe it explains why he put a lot of time and effort into hiring his new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat’s Picks.
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