Auburn, Ala.--Auburn offensive coordinator and QB coach Gus Malzahn was upbeat after watching the first practice of the 2009 preseason.
Malzahn has the assignment of picking a starting quarterback from a group featuring senior Chris Todd, juniors Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle plus freshmen Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley.
Todd, a part-time starter last season, was mostly a spectator in spring drills, limited to taking “mental reps” while recovering from shoulder surgery.
Malzahn says he liked what he saw from Todd on Wednesday evening. “He had a real solid day,” the coach says. “He threw the ball and he really had a good grasp on what we were doing and that was good to see...He was spinning it pretty well and throwing it on time.”
Commenting on Todd, the coordinator says, “The thing about Chris is he is a veteran. He is not a new guy coming in. He understands coverages, he understands concepts. That kind of helps him.
“There is nothing that is better than actual reps,” Malzahn adds. “He is the type he is going to continue to get better. He was pretty impressive for the first day not going through spring.”
Malzahn is shown coaching QB Chris Todd on Wednesday. Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor is also in the photo.
Commenting on the two freshmen QBs, Malzahn says, “They had a solid day, too. Tyrik got the majority of the reps as far as the freshmen go.”
Malzahn notes that Moseley, who was Alabama’s Mr. Football for the 2008 season, will get more reps at later practices.
“Tyrik at times made some very solid throws,” the coach says. “He has a very live arm. He has got pretty good footwork.”
Neil Caudle throws a pass in the first preseason workout.
The two QBs who finished neck-and-neck in the race at the end of spring training, Burns and Caudle, also had a good opening day, Malzahn points out.
“The thing I see about those guys is they are better than when they left spring...and they should be,” the coach says. “Both of them looked light years ahead so that was refreshing to see.”
Auburn split the practice into two sessions and that gave Malzahn more time to spend studying each quarterback. “It really helps us evaluate the guys,” he says. “It gives us a true feel of them in live situations against a defense. It is very easy to evaluate and they get a lot of reps.”
Tyrik Rollison is shown in his first Auburn practice.
Malzahn isn’t giving a timetable on when he will chose the starting QB, but says, “As soon as we possibly can.”
He notes that he hopes to narrow it two guys. “We are a timing offense, I have said that before, and the quicker we can identify guys to start working with the receivers that are going to be on the field, the better we will get.”
The coach says he doesn’t want to have a two-quarterback system except when he has another guy at the position in the wildcat formation, something the Tigers didn’t practice in the spring but will install in August.
“We are being very slow and very simple early this first week,” Malzahn says. “After the first week, in the second week, we are going to start going and we will see who can catch up. Everyone should be at a decent pace this first week. Of course, the second week should separate people.”
At the first practice a pair of freshmen, Emory Blake and DeAngelo Benton worked with the first team and two other freshmen receivers, Anthony Gulley and Travante Stallworth, showed the coaches what they can do.
“We need some of those guys to at least give us some depth,” Malzahn says. “I will tell you what, they have some athletic ability. We saw that in the abbreviated practice we had at the end, but it is a matter who can actually be ready when that first game comes.”