Don’t get me wrong – anybody with more than a passing interest in college football knows that VanGorder is a significant upgrade over Ted Roof. And if there’s one thing Chizik’s done consistently well since his arrival is to make sure his program recruits.
But if you take a look at this post from Barrett Sallee at his new Bleacher Report gig, it’s pretty easy to see where things look a little dicey on the Plains. Take as an example his observation about Kiehl Frazier:
Frazier attempted only 12 passes all season, and the only meaningful snaps he saw as a passer were on the road against Arkansas when the Tigers were trailing. Not exactly the best spot to succeed in. Simply put, Gus Malzahn didn’t put Frazier in the position to succeed, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he didn’t.
That reads like something you’d expect from somebody who’s watching stats more than on-the-field performance. I don’t know if that’s actually the case with Sallee here, but I saw a lot of Frazier last year and his passing skills didn’t exactly impress, meaningful situations or otherwise.
And the Malzahn criticism is simply puzzling. Whatever knocks Malzahn may deserve as a coordinator, failing to help a quarterback succeed isn’t one of them. This is the guy who made a functional SEC quarterback out of Chris Todd, remember. And he inherited Todd from the previous coaching regime at Auburn. Frazier, however, was a kid Malzahn wanted badly in the program. Given that none of the quarterback candidates could lock down the starting position over the course of last season, it’s hard to think that Malzahn didn’t invest some serious effort in making sure that Frazier had a fair shot.
So you’ll have to pardon me if I don’t take Sallee’s conclusion as gospel.
He threw for 8,229 yards and 107 touchdowns in three years as a starter in high school. Given Loeffler’s successful track record of developing quarterbacks, Frazier is a good bet to step up and take control of that coveted quarterback position.
Loeffler’s success came in developing quarterbacks in pro-style offenses at Michigan. His brief, though loudly trumpeted, SEC pit stop with Florida didn’t exactly find him working any magic with Tebow. And Frazier’s never played in a pro-style offense. Let’s just say the jury is out on his role this season.
I have to admit I’m a little surprised by the confidence I’ve seen from many about Loeffler’s coaching skills being good enough to elevate Auburn’s offense. He’s got some serious, gaping holes to patch, as Sallee’s piece indicates indirectly. Aside from the uncertainty at quarterback, Loeffler has to find a replacement for Michael Dyer (McCalebb is basically allergic to running between the tackles) and develop some depth at wide receiver behind Emory Blake. All that, plus install a new offensive scheme! That’s a lot to put on one man’s plate.
And, ominously, Matt Melton finds that last year’s numbers suggest Auburn may be looking at some regression this season.
… In the SEC, Auburn allowed 10 more offensive touchdowns (27) than they scored (17), yet still somehow managed to win half their league games! With Texas A&M joining the SEC West and Clemson on the non-conference schedule, the Tigers could miss the postseason altogether in 2012…
Sure, maybe it’s a statistical anomaly. Maybe it was luck. But another possibility is that Malzahn squeezed more out of that offense than he’s given credit for (what, you thought I was going to give Roof credit for that?). If you’re going to talk about track records, Malzahn’s indicates that he’s going to be a tough act to replace.
To be fair, at the end Sallee backs off a little on the immediacy of Loeffler’s expected success. But to label his post as a series of realistic expectations for Auburn this season… well, color me unconvinced.
UPDATE: Or not.
The coaches want Frazier to be the guy on the Plains, but nothing from his freshman season suggests that he can handle the responsibility.