published Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Quarterback Kiehl Frazier, Auburn see improvement

SEC INVASION

Head football coaches from Tennessee and Georgia will be in the Chattanooga area today, and it's not because of a premier high-school prospect.

First-year Volunteers coach Butch Jones will be the guest speaker at "A Lunch for Champions" at the Orange Grove Center. This is the 26th annual event for Orange Grove, with a majority of them known as "A Breakfast for Champions."

Mark Richt, who is in his 13th season with the Bulldogs, will be joined by basketball coach Mark Fox and university president Michael Adams tonight as the "UGA Days" tour makes a stop at the Catoosa County Colonnade.

A month after Auburn won college football's 2010 national championship, quarterback Kiehl Frazier signed with the Tigers.

Frazier, tabbed by USA Today as its high school national offensive player of the year, tallied more than 4,000 total yards as a senior in leading Shiloh Christian to its third straight Arkansas Class 4A title. The dual-threat talent was drawing comparisons to 2010 Auburn star Cam Newton.

Now halfway through his college career, Frazier has faltered frequently but is not without hope of joining Stan White, Ben Leard and Jason Campbell as quarterbacks who impressively salvaged their time on the Plains. Gus Malzahn, who recruited Frazier to Auburn when he was offensive coordinator under Gene Chizik, is back as head coach following a year guiding Arkansas State.

"Kiehl was in this offense as a true freshman, but we weren't able to put the whole package in with him because he wasn't here in the spring," Malzahn said. "He learned a new offense last year, and it was a little bit of a learning curve for him this spring in those first couple of practices. About halfway through, it started to click, and you could see that a lot of the stuff was coming back to him.

"I feel like he ended spring on a strong note, and what I mean by that was he had a good understanding of our base offense and the communication that goes along with the no-huddle aspect of it and the base reads in our passing game."

Malzahn has bracketed Frazier as a co-No. 1 with sophomore Jonathan Wallace, who was the starter throughout November as the Tigers concluded a dismal 3-9 season. Wallace completed 18 of 26 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns during the A-Day game on April 20, while Frazier was 10-of-16 for 125 yards with one touchdown as well as a rushing score.

"I feel I did all right this spring," said Frazier, who also fumbled a snap and suffered three sacks at A-Day. "I was able to get most of the procedure down, and I felt pretty comfortable."

Frazier rushed 76 times for 327 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman change-of-pace option for Malzahn, and he threw 12 passes with five completions and two interceptions. The 6-foot-2, 228-pounder earned the starting job at the start of last season under coordinator Scot Loeffler and completed 62 of 116 passes for 753 yards with two touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Chizik and Loeffler benched Frazier during the fifth game against Arkansas and replaced him with senior Clint Moseley, who was replaced in the ninth game by Wallace. The 6-2, 205-pound Wallace is from Phenix City, Ala., and joining the mix this summer will be Jeremy Johnson from Montgomery, a 6-6, 215-pounder who was a Rivals.com top-100 prospect.

Of course, upgrading an offense that ranked 115th out of 120 Bowl Subdivision teams will take more than a new staff and improved play at quarterback. Tailback Tre Mason is back after rushing for 1,002 yards and 5.86 yards a carry last year as a sophomore, but the Tigers are having to replace tailback Onterio McCalebb, receiver Emory Blake and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen.

"We do have a young offensive line that we think is extremely talented, and that group up front is starting to jell more and more," Malzahn said. "I think the future is going to be very bright up front. I think the running back position was a concern depth-wise coming in, but Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant both had very solid springs. We know what we have with Tre.

"With our receivers, we have a lot of guys who are very young, but we feel like we'll have the chance to improve. The pieces around the quarterback position have a lot of potential."

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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