Chizik names new starting Auburn QB - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Chizik names new starting Auburn QB

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Auburn is making another quarterback switch in hopes of reviving one of the nation's worst offenses. Coach Gene Chizik said Tuesday that freshman Jonathan Wallace will start Saturday against New Mexico State.

He replaces Clint Moseley, who sustained a left ankle injury last weekend against Texas A&M and wasn't expected to practice Tuesday.

Wallace had been used in a Wildcat quarterback role before relieving former starter Kiehl Frazier in that game after Moseley's injury.

Chizik says Wallace provided a spark to the Tigers, who are 1-7 and ranked last among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total offense.

Wallace passed for 122 yards and two touchdowns and ran 13 times for 71 yards against the Aggies.

Frazier has been nursing shoulder problems, but Chizik says he could play if needed.

COACH CHIZIK'S NEWS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:

Opening statement…

"I want to start out and say congratulations to Ashton Richardson. What a great honor. He's a great young man. A guy that walked on here and earned his scholarship, and now he's one of 12 finalists for a Rhodes Scholarship. That is an unbelievable accomplishment for a great young man. We wish him well on that, and we hope he wins the opportunity to do that. That's great for him." 

"The question about the starting quarterback, I'll address up front. We're going to start this week with Jonathan Wallace for his first start of the year. We thought, going back and looking at the film and really reviewing it, that he really played well. That's the decision that we've made, so we're going to forge ahead with that.  

"We have a great challenge right now from a team that played Louisiana Tech last week very closely. It was 7-0 at halftime. Their record really isn't indicative of some of the games that they've played and played well. I think they're an improving team. They're in the same position we are, both needing a win. It's good to get back to practice today and get our guys focused and prepared for another game." 

On Wallace's reaction to being named the starter…

"Jonathan's one of these guys that's very mature beyond his years. He prepares that way. He was up here all day yesterday on his own just watching film. Not that that's the first day he's done that. He's just a little bit different. He's not into all of the fluff and all of the stuff around what all that means. He just loves football. He loves to work at the game. He's excited about it. I think he's really going to embrace the opportunity.  

"It's going to be a little bit different. It's different for a quarterback that's starting the game and being in that role than it is for a guy to come in in what was somewhat of a limited role there for a while, and be that role player. The other thing that will be different being a starting quarterback is you have to deal with all the blitzes and the pressures. When they know you have a young guy, that's what you're going to get.  

"His play was very positive Saturday night. He made some things happen. He made some tough throws. There's a couple throws in there that we'd like to have back. In the run game and in the passing game, I thought he was very productive for a young guy and the chances that he got. 

"It was really neat on the sideline to watch as he made a couple of drives happen and go down the field. It sparked some energy and some passion into our bench on both sides of the ball. One of the things that our team does have for Jonathan is a very high level of respect for the way he prepares and the way he goes about his business. That's not just in the classroom and what they know he puts in extra, but the way he works on the field.  

"He's had significant improvement. This will be a little different for him because the playbook will expand some; not that he hasn't been in the meetings and hearing it and seeing it, but now he has the opportunity to be the starter and have to execute all of those things. A little different dynamic, but I thought he really handled what we gave him in the game to do Saturday night very well." 

Has Wallace's success been a surprise…

"We had so much knowledge of him because he'd been to our camps. I think a lot of times you can go back and you can look at guys that played very competitive football in high school leagues that are very, very good, which he did at Central. He was a big reason that they were as successful as they were.  

"When you come from a competitive league like Alabama high school football, and you're able to take your team and guide your team and lead your team to a lot of success, there's something to that. When we recruited him, it was kind of an 11th-hour deal, as we all know, but we knew he was right down the road, and we needed his type of leadership and his type of work ethic to come in here, not knowing how exactly it would fit or where we would go, but there was a lot. When you talk about the mark of a man, there was a lot to him. That has been very evident to everybody around here since he got here." 

On Clint Moseley's status…

"We don't know exactly yet. I met with him earlier this morning, and he has an ankle (injury). I'm not a doctor, but it's going to be a struggle right now as the week wears on to see where he ends up in terms of being able to dress out and play, but I don't know that, and I hate to say that on a Tuesday. I'm always reluctant to do that. We'll know more on Thursday, but right now, he can't practice tonight, so we'll just see." 

On Kiehl Frazier's status…

"Hopefully his shoulder has continued to improve. I feel like it's gotten better. I'm not going to say he's at 100 percent, but we hope that's he working in that direction." 

Would Frazier be available Saturday…

"Yes, I mean that's the way it looks right now. I don't see any change from the way his arm felt Saturday night until now." 

Who would Wallace's backup be as of now…

"Kiehl would." 

On the timing of naming Wallace the starting quarterback…

"A lot of it really is just going back and reviewing how he played Saturday.  I think that was big. That was the first time that he got an opportunity to do more than the initial role that we had for him in the wildcat-type stuff with a couple of throws off of that.  We threw him in, and, again, he's in every meeting.  He's at every practice and he works them.  When you watch him execute the game (plan) with more than his role as we put him in there, we just felt like he did very well.  I think that merited giving him a chance to get the starting nod." 

Is he surprised at how well Jonathan Wallace has played…

"I hate to use the word surprised because that makes you think that I didn't think that he could do it.  I thought he was extremely poised under pressure.  I thought he made some throws under pressure that were really, really good.  I thought just handling some of the calls out there that he's definitely had reps at, but not nearly as many reps as a starter would, I thought it was very impressive. 

"But what's more impressive about him is -- and again, we'll see more now that he knows he is the starter -- but he doesn't get rattled.  He is just a very poised young man beyond his years in terms of what we've seen up until this point." 

Who would Auburn's emergency quarterback be…

"Well, we're looking at that right now.  We used Ricardo Louis some as the wildcat guy this past week and we will continue to work him some there.  He was a high school quarterback some, and that's why we felt good with him handling the football, but that's kind of where we are at right now in figuring that out.  Plus, we've just got to see how fast Clint gets that ankle healed up." 

How have the older players on offense handled Wallace being named the starter…

"I'm not sure a lot of them know right now.  This wasn't a team meeting announcement.  I felt very compelled to be able to call the quarterbacks in individually and explain to them what we are doing and why we're doing it, but, obviously, they'll know here shortly." 

How has Chizik handled the added pressure of having a disappointing season…

"I just think when you've done this long enough, you understand that this is part of the business.  At Auburn, there are very, very high expectations and when you don't live up to them, that's part of the game and that's part of the profession. If you can't handle it, you don't need to be in it.  My goal is one goal, and my goal is to really care about our players and our coaches and continue to try to move our team in the right direction.  It hasn't been anything like what we thought or we would like, but it is where it is, and we are going to continue to press on." 

Will Scot Loeffler coach from the sideline or the press box Saturday…

"He'll be in the box." 

Is it more difficult for Chizik to lead the team with the questions surrounding the future…

"If you let it.  I think it depends on how you proceed and how you do it. I don't lead any different right now than I did two years ago.  The biggest challenge with that is, obviously, what they choose to hear and read and believe when they walk out of the building, and so those things I can't control. But I can control exactly what I look like and exactly what I talk like and exactly what I do every day by what they see and what they hear and that will not change.   

"The message won't change, I won't change, our coaches won't change. Are there outside sources right now that make it difficult if they choose to listen to whatever's out there?  I'm sure that it can become difficult for them, but I've got to give our guys a lot of credit.  I've said it.  We come into our team meetings.  We talk.  We're open.  We do it the way we've always done it, and we aren't going to change that. We're all disappointed in the outcomes right now.   

"You can have disappointing circumstances, but you can't walk in here every day disappointed and live like that.  You've got to keep working and you've got to keep moving in the right direction, so that's how we are doing it.  We're going to go back to work and we're going to continue to try to improve.  That's the only way I know how to do it, and that's the only way I am going to do it.  I am the leader, and they are going to follow my lead. They are going to do it based on what they see from us, so there is no option here other than doing it one way.  That's the only way I know how to do it." 

On a reported claim that coaches have been taken off the recruiting trail…

"Well, let me go back to the same thing I said.  I don't have time for all of that.  I've got one direct focus: that is my team and my players.  That has nothing to do with us winning.  Whoever said that has nothing to do with anything, so I am not getting into any of that stuff.  I've got one track, and that is our players and our coaches and trying to get us to the next win, so, all of that stuff, I have no comment on that." 

On the importance of getting a win to gain some positive momentum…

"Yeah, it's big.  It's big.  We need a win.  For me to stand up here and say that would be an understatement.  We need a win, and, again, we are going out there and fight our tails off and try to get a win Saturday.   

"We've got one month of football left.  We've got four games left, and we have great opportunities out there. I can assure you that we are going to work every day to try to get a win this week and then try to get a win the next week and so on and so forth.  But it's big.  The medicine and the remedy for being in a position like this is really only one thing -- winning.  I think it is very critical that we practice well and we prepare and we go out there and we get one Saturday." 

On Chris Davis' status for the game Saturday…

"It's been on and off with some health issues.  He had a concussion a couple of weeks ago.  Those types of things are very touch and go.  He tried to come back in the Vanderbilt game and kind of had some recurring issues with that.  Like so many other guys on our team right now, there are some issues health-wise that we are on top of, but we've got to be careful with.  Our number one concern is the health and well-being of our players, so that's kind of a day-by-day thing right now." 

Was Onterio McCalebb getting one touch vs. Texas A&M a result of him being banged up…

"No, and we went in thinking there were going to be more than that. A lot of times with his carries, a lot of them are read plays, so if we are reading a guy and that read gives us the opportunity to give him the ball, he's going to get it.  

"That really is not a health reason or he's not producing.  It's none of that, and I told him that.  I said, ‘Hey, look it was one of those circumstances.'  We felt like we wanted him to touch the ball anywhere from 10 to 12 times depending on the circumstances and the game became something that was completely different from a score standpoint, so we had to get away from a little bit of some of that stuff, but I wouldn't read into that at all." 

On Jonathan Wallace's ability to run the read option…

"Well, when he's in there now, that's been his role. Now you bring him in and he's got a completely different role, because he has really expanded the offense into many more things. I think it can become very helpful for us.  Now, you just can't come in there and say, ‘OK, when he comes in, we're going to be running this play and this play and maybe they've got one pass play off of it.'  Now, you have the opportunity to do several different things in terms of running the whole offense, so it'll be different." 

On the problems Auburn's defense has had on opening drives of games this season…

"We're trying to put our finger on that.  It's been disappointing because, if you look at the opening drives defensively from our guys, it's been really, really poor.  Somewhere in the middle it kind of evens itself out and then we play fairly well.  Like I said the other day, there have been some improvements in our defense, certainly in red zone defense and third down defense. Throwing Saturday night's game out -- because there was very, very, very little that we did well at all during the night whether it was the first drive, the last drive, or any drive in-between -- but prior to that the two things that were glaring were the opening drives in games and then many times, right before halftime.   

"It's hard to put your finger on.  It really goes down to an execution thing, but there have been times that through the course of the game we've played well enough to make sure the game has stayed pretty much in hand where we would have a chance to win it in the fourth quarter, and we just haven't been successful at that. I don't think you can put your finger on one exact thing.  We are still trying to work through that, to be honest with you." 

Have they have thought about changing the strategy of deferring until the second half…

"We've thought about it. Do you think we should do that?  It might help, right?  We have actually had that very discussion. To be honest with you, I like to be on defense first traditionally, all things being equal.  I like to go to the defense first.  I like for your offense to have the opening possession in the second half because you've seen exactly what the defense's ideas are in terms of that.  It really hasn't quite panned out like we expected it to, so we've thought about that.  We've thought about everything, so you may see a change on that. That's a 50-50 proposition on whether or not you win the coin toss or not. But we've thought about that." 

Has he gone back to the drawing board from an Xs and Os perspective…

"When you say go back to the drawing board, you don't go back and start with new stuff.  That's not where you have to go when you are in these situations.  You have to go back to the execution of the calls and all of those things; to be honest with you, we've had opportunities that we have not delivered on, whether that's opportunities to make tackles in open space and we miss them on third-down plays, whether that's a receiver that is open for a touchdown and we under throw or the quarterback gets hit a little bit late.  We had a couple of those situations the other night.  

"The Xs and Os part, we're not executing at a high level, and it's a guy here and a guy there typically, so you've just got to keep going back and trying. When I say my message to the team is the same, it's ‘Look, we are going to work every week to try to give you an opportunity to keep the games in hand and win the games'; it's not ‘We are going to start over here and do this new and do that'. 

"You've got to go with the structure of what you feel like what you've built up the most reps at, not that you can't have a tweak here or there. We've just got to coach them better and they've got to play better.  It's that simple." 

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. WSFA 12 News contributed. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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