Malzahn holds high standards for QBs

Just call him the QB making machine.

It stares at them from the minute they step into the room.

Gus Malzahn’s history of molding quarterbacks assaults Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley whenever they set foot in the Auburn offensive coordinator’s office, in the form of five framed pictures, complete with a plaque of accomplishments underneath each.

Mitch Mustain and his 8-0 record as a true freshman starting at Arkansas. Paul Smith, David Johnson and their back-to-back 4,000-yard passing seasons at Tulsa. Chris Todd and his then-school-record 21 touchdowns at Auburn.

And, of course, Cam Newton. He had a pretty good year.

Malzahn doesn’t even have to speak the question they represent for Trotter and Moseley: “Which one of you is next?”

“That’s just him,” Trotter said. “He’s kind of funny sometimes.”

Malzahn often says his goal is to stress his quarterbacks enough during practice that they don’t feel pressure in the games.

That, apparently, extends to off-the-field meetings with Trotter and Moseley as well.

“We’re a quarterback-oriented offense. Our quarterback dictates what we do,” Malzahn said. “We want our guys to understand that. And it takes a special person to be mentally tough enough to handle that.

“They understand the expectations.”

It’s an oft-quoted stat that bears repeating: Malzahn is entering his sixth collegiate season and has yet to enjoy the luxury of a returning starter at quarterback.

Malzahn has often professed a desire to have a quarterback in his system for more than a year.

But he seems to be doing just fine with the one-and-dones.

“Gus is outstanding in terms of preparing quarterbacks. We all know that,” head coach Gene Chizik said. “His track record and what we’ve done offensively since he’s been here and what he did before he got here speaks for itself. So it’s very comforting in knowing that.”

Malzahn said that comes from his background as a high school coach having to deal with a different starter every year or so, from inventing and installing an offensive system that is malleable enough to cater to any quarterback’s needs.

It’s utility by necessity: Malzahn needs his offense to mirror his quarterback’s skills because Malzahn needs his quarterback in complete control of the offense.

“You choose your starting quarterback, you build your offense around his strength, and really it takes about four games into the season before you can gather all the information,” Malzahn said. “So you can fully try to help him be the best he can be.”

It took Malzahn about that long to figure out Newton’s strengths – everything – last year.

The good news is he’s had at least two years to get a feel for Trotter and Moseley.

The less fortunate news is neither is Newton.

“I feel very blessed, very fortunate to have been able to coach Cam Newton, I’ll tell you that,” Malzahn said. “But right now I’m focused on – out of the two guys we got – who gives us the best chance of winning.”

That involves holding Trotter and Moseley to the same standard of perfection Malzahn has expected out of his previous five starters.

Stressing them during preparation so that when gametime rolls around, they’ll be ready.

“A million miles a minute,” Trotter said of Malzahn’s coaching style. “And anything less than perfect is awful.”

The 14 spring sessions have not been enough to separate Trotter and Moseley.

Both showed enough good and enough bad during A-Day to make it nearly impossible to designate a leader in the race.

Malzahn said at the beginning of the season he would ideally like to have a starter coming out of spring, but – for the third time in three years at Auburn – it appears that won’t be the case.

It’s not as if that’s anything new for Auburn’s offensive mastermind.

“I’ve just got to go with whatever he says,” Moseley said. “Trust in him, do the best I can. Whenever he names it, I’ll trust in whatever decision he makes.” | 737-2568

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