SEC: Kiehl Frazier

AUBURN, Ala. -- Who better to cover a wide receiver than a former wide receiver? That’s what Auburn was thinking when the coaches moved Trovon Reed to cornerback this spring.

The former four-star recruit from Thibodaux, La., has spent his entire Auburn career on offense. He’s played in 36 games and made four starts as a wide receiver over the last three seasons, but he’s yet to ever break through like many expected when he signed with the Tigers in 2010. As a junior this past season, he finished with just nine catches for 98 yards.

[+] EnlargeTrovon Reed
AP Photo/Dave MartinTrovon Reed has fit in well with Auburn's defensive backs after being moved to defense from wide receiver.
Now, as he heads into his fifth and final season at Auburn, Reed is moving into enemy territory. He’ll join a secondary that he’s competed against for the last four years, and one that knows him well.

“I’ve always liked Trovon’s energy,” safety Jermaine Whitehead said. “When he played offense, he was the guy who got us pumped to have a good game. Now he’s on my side of the ball, so it’s going to be a long year for the offense.”

The move was hinted at just days after the BCS title game, when Reed posted on his Instagram that he will be “the best cornerback in the nation” in 2014, but coach Gus Malzahn refuted the rumors, calling them premature. It wasn’t until the day before the Tigers opened spring practice that Malzahn confirmed the move.

For Reed, it’s a new position since coming to Auburn, but it’s not one he’s unfamiliar with. He played some defensive back in high school. In fact, his RecruitingNation scouting report says “his feet, hips and ability to accelerate could make for a great corner prospect.”

The skills were there. All he needed was an opportunity.

Through the first week, the transition has been seamless. Reed is competing with the likes of Jonathan Jones and Kamryn Melton at the field cornerback spot, and he’s providing a unique perspective for his teammates.

“He's an older guy,” Jones said. “He adds depth and experience. Coming from receiver, I'm always asking him, ‘What do the receivers think?’ He has the mindset of a receiver coming from receiver, so he definitely has knowledge that can help us.”

Reed isn’t the first Auburn player to shift from offense to defense under Malzahn. Former starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier moved to safety last fall, and 2013 signee Johnathan Ford started fall camp at running back before he switched to cornerback.

Ford, who is now at safety, played in all 14 games as a freshman and finished with five tackles and one pass break-up.

The Auburn coaches are hoping Reed can make a similar impact and provide depth at a position where the Tigers don’t have much experience, but as top cornerback option Jonathon Mincy can attest, it’s not as easy as it looks.

“Playing wide receiver, it’s a lot different than playing corner,” Mincy said. “Learning the role of defense, learning what the cornerback is supposed to do and just playing with his eyes ... that’s going to be a big adjustment. But he’s making a good transition. He’s eager to learn and he’s a very competitive person.”

With Tuesday’s practice in the books, Reed has 11 more practices this spring to learn the position and earn his spot before Kalvaraz Bessent and Nicholas Ruffin, a pair of ESPN 300 cornerbacks, arrive over the summer. The next three weeks will be vital for the former wide receiver.

It’s his last shot.

SEC lunchtime links

October, 7, 2013
Here are some of today's headlines from around the SEC.

SEC lunchtime links

August, 23, 2013
Just think, the next time you click on the SEC lunchtime links post it will be Monday of the first game week of the college football season. Ready or not, it's that time again.
  • Tennessee lost two defensive ends over the course of the preseason and spent much of the past week or so looking for their replacements. In 6-foot-5, 260-pound Jordan Williams, the Vols may have found their man to start.
  • Damiere Byrd is already the fastest player on the South Carolina roster. Now the speedy wide receiver wants to make the biggest plays in the biggest situations.
  • Matt Elam was a playmaker and an All-American at safety for the Gators last year. Marcus Maye, his replacement, worked with Elam this offseason and has impressed coaches with his work ethic so far. With the season nearly underway, Maye hopes to be the same type of presence on defense as his predecessor.
  • Vanderbilt's seniors Kenny Ladler and Javon Marshall have so much familiarity with one another that they rarely need to speak. The Commodores are hoping that experience and comfort level pays off as the two form what could be a stellar safety net for the secondary.
  • It won't be easy, but Missouri's defensive linemen must replace Sheldon Richardson's disruptive presence on the Tigers' defense.
  • Arkansas struggled to defend the pass last year, finishing dead last in the SEC in passing yards allowed. Eric Bennett and Rohan Gaines are hoping to change that. The two safeties expect big years.
  • Keihl Frazier surprised many when he dropped out of the quarterback race to start over in the Auburn secondary at safety. That move happened less than two weeks ago. And ready or not, he'll need to be ready to play just over a week from now when the Tigers host Washington State in their season opener.
  • Arie Kouandjio was starting at guard for all spring and most of preseason camp before an abrupt move to tackle last week. Austin Shepherd experienced the same thing, switched from tackle to guard in a position experiment by the Alabama coaching staff. Now, it appears that those experiments are over and the Tide can get to the job of establishing chemistry.
  • The Egg Bowl is months away, but Mississippi State went ahead and released its new snazzy uniform combination for the rivalry game against Ole Miss.
  • D.J. Welter and Lamar Louis are expected to start, but how do the rest of LSU's inside linebackers stack up?
AUBURN, Ala. -- The last time Auburn turned to a dual-threat junior college quarterback, it resulted in a national championship. New head coach Gus Malzahn is hoping for similar results after he named Nick Marshall the starter on Saturday.

Nick Marshall has emerged and earned the right to be our starting quarterback,” Malzahn said in a press release. “As I’ve said, we wanted to go with the guy that gives us the best opportunity to win football games and Nick is that guy.

“He has caught on quickly in the short period of time he has been with us. He is a playmaker with a big upside, and once he becomes more comfortable with the offense, he has the chance to improve each week.”

Marshall, who originally signed with Georgia out of high school as a cornerback, beat out true freshman Jeremy Johnson and returning starters Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace. Frazier took himself out of contention when he moved to safety last week.

At Garden City (Kan.) Community College last year, Marshall threw for 3,142 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,095 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Although he didn’t arrive on campus until the summer, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound signal-caller has already impressed a number of his teammates with his athletic ability.

“Him coming here and showing how athletic he and how fast he is, his ability to extend the play and make things happen with his legs, it’s something you just have to watch,” tight end C.J. Uzomah said. “You can’t really say, ‘the defensive end would’ve tackled him.’ Probably not. He’s a blazing guy. It’s something kind of special.”

When Marshall takes the field against Washington State in two weeks, he will become the seventh different quarterback to start the season opener in the past seven seasons for Auburn. The last time the Tigers had a returning starter at quarterback was in 2007 with Brandon Cox.

Malzahn hopes Marshall more resembles the last junior college quarterback to start for Auburn.
AUBURN, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn knew he had a big decision to make Saturday regarding his starting quarterback. What the Auburn coach didn’t know was that he would have to make another difficult decision and dismiss senior defensive back Demetruce McNeal from the team.

McNeal was arrested early Saturday for possession of marijuana. He missed practice, and after meeting with Malzahn, he was dismissed from the team. For more on the arrest, click here.

As a junior, McNeal finished with 90 tackles, including seven for a loss. He also had two career interceptions. He was expected to start this season at one of the safety spots for new defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, but the Tigers will now have to look elsewhere. They do have two options that have emerged since the new staff took over.

Sophomore cornerback Joshua Holsey moved to safety in the spring and will likely stick there following Saturday’s news. He made six starts last year at corner.

“Josh is a very savvy football player,” Malzahn said. “When we made the move, he really didn’t miss a lick. He’s got a lot of natural instincts, and he’s a guy you can count on.”

Former starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier made the transition to safety last week, and he has picked up the position quickly. Malzahn said there’s a good chance Frazier will play in the season opener against Washington State in two weeks.

“He’s really got off to a good start,” Malzahn said. “Coach [Charlie] Harbison is very excited about him. Coach [Ellis] Johnson is, too. He understands football, and he understands offenses and what they’re trying to do with splits and everything that goes with it.”

SEC lunchtime links

August, 16, 2013
It's Friday. Coast through the rest of your work week by catching up with what's happening around the SEC.

Auburn season preview

August, 15, 2013
Today we're looking at Auburn, as the Tigers look to get back to being competitive in the SEC West with the return of Gus Malzahn.

Coach: Gus Malzahn (9-3 overall, 0-0 at Auburn)

2012 record: 3-9, 0-8 SEC

[+] EnlargeTre Mason
John Reed/US PresswireGus Malzahn and Auburn will be counting on big production from running back Tre Mason this season.
Key losses: RB Onterio McCalebb, WR Emory Blake, TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, DE Corey Lemonier, LB Daren Bates

Key returners: RB Tre Mason, OT Greg Robinson, C Reese Dismukes, WR Ricardo Louis, DE Dee Ford, DT Angelo Blackson, CB Chris Davis, S Demetruce McNeal

Newcomer to watch: Freshman defensive end Carl Lawson has impressed the staff since stepping on campus and has the tools to help improve Auburn's pass rush this fall.

Biggest games in 2013: Washington State, Aug. 31; Mississippi State, Sept. 14; Ole Miss, Oct. 5; at Arkansas, Nov. 2; at Tennessee, Nov. 9

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: With the news that Kiehl Frazier is moving to safety, Auburn's quarterback battle is down to three players. Right now, it looks like newcomers Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson are pulling ahead of sophomore Jonathan Wallace, who started the final four games for Auburn last season. Marshall and Johnson have been very impressive this fall and split first-team reps during Tuesday's scrimmage. Regardless of who starts, Malzahn will have his eighth different starting quarterback in eight years.

Forecast: Auburn returns a handful of starters on both sides of the ball, but neither side was very good at all last season. Auburn ranked last in the SEC in total offense and 13th in total defense. Auburn barely scored 18 points per game and allowed nearly 30. All of that has to change in 2013, and with Malzahn back on the Plains, many believe it will.

Offensively, with the return of the spread offense, the Tigers will no longer be trying to put a square peg into a round hole. The Tigers had spread players last season, but were running a very uncomfortable pro-style attack that drastically set the offense back. While this team still has to figure out who its starting quarterback will be, the offense will likely revolve around running back Tre Mason, who was Auburn's only offensive weapon last season, rushing for 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns. He can be a downhill threat and has the ability to make plays in space.

A solid offensive line returns, but the Tigers are still looking for more consistency at receiver. The hope is that former big-time recruit Ricardo Louis' big spring translates to the fall, and that Quan Bray and Trovon Reed reach their big-play potential.

Defensively, coordinator Ellis Johnson wants a much more aggressive unit with his 4-2-5 scheme and might have budding stars in "Star" Justin Garrett and cornerback Chris Davis. There is talent up front, but the defensive line has to be much more disruptive this fall, and the secondary can't allow the big plays that crippled it in 2012.

There's no question that Auburn has the talent to return to a bowl game, but it's all about development. The Tigers just didn't have it during the last two years of the Gene Chizik era, but Malzhan and Co. have made it a priority. Johnson should have the defense in much better shape, while an improved offense will be a major reason why the Tigers return to the postseason in 2013.

Podcast: Talking Tide, Aggies and more

August, 13, 2013
In the latest edition of the ESPNU College Football podcast, senior writer Ivan Maisel visits with SEC Bloggers Chris Low and Edward Aschoff about several topics, including the quarterback situation at Auburn, the importance of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and the the latest surrounding Texas A&M and quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Click here for the podcast.

SEC lunchtime links

August, 13, 2013
We're less than three weeks from the first college football games of the season, but there is still plenty of lineup shuffling occurring at some SEC schools. Take a look below.
The quarterback competition at Auburn cleared up some Monday when former starter Kiehl Frazier took himself out of the race.

Frazier asked coach Gus Malzahn if he could move to safety when he was told that junior college transfer Nick Marshall and true freshman Jeremy Johnson would get the majority of reps at quarterback going forward.

As a sophomore in 2012, Frazier started the first five games for the Tigers. He threw for 753 yards with two touchdowns and eight interceptions but lost the starting job midway through the season. He played in all 13 games as a freshman.

The move further indicated that a newcomer will be taking snaps for Auburn when they host Washington State to start the season. Whether that will be Johnson or Marshall is still yet to be determined. Malzahn said Jonathan Wallace is in the mix, too.

Read the full news story here.

SEC media days primer

July, 12, 2013
When: Tuesday through Thursday

Where: Hoover, Ala.

Big names in attendance: QB AJ McCarron, Alabama; QB Jeff Driskel, Florida; QB Aaron Murray, Georgia; QB Zach Mettenberger, LSU; WR Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss; QB Tyler Russell, Mississippi State; QB James Franklin, Missouri; DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina; QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

Five biggest topics:

1. What's to be done about Johnny Football? There's no question that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has all of the talent to own the college football landscape in what likely will be his final season in College Station, but his off-field social media persona has drawn too much attention. Manziel is allowed to have as much fun as he wants. He's in college and he's young. But he's also one of the best college athletes around, and his team can't repeat what it did last season if he's not 100 percent focused. He, coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive lineman Jake Matthews will get bombarded with questions about controlling Johnny Football away from the field. What will Manziel's take be, and how will he handle the media circus?

2. This hasn't been the best summer for the SEC. Outside all of the Manziel social media drama, the SEC faced some embarrassing arrests during the offseason. The biggest scandal revolves around Vanderbilt's football program, which suspended and then dismissed four players during an investigation by the Nashville Metro Police sex crimes unit. The police and coach James Franklin have been quiet about the situation, but Franklin will have to address it. The earlier he does, the better. He might not have to give too many details, but meeting the incident head-on will save him from further scrutiny and questions. Sumlin also will be asked about the recent arrests of defensive backs Deshazor Everett and Floyd Raven and the status of suspended defensive tackle Kirby Ennis. LSU coach Les Miles has been very quiet about running back Jeremy Hill's recent arrest and is letting it play out in the legal system, but chances are Miles will field plenty of questions about Hill and the effect on the team.

3. Four coaches are making their first trips to SEC media days: Arkansas' Bret Bielema, Auburn's Gus Malzahn (first as head coach), Kentucky's Mark Stoops and Tennessee's Butch Jones. All have made early splashes in their own ways, but it's time to deal with the circus that is SEC media days. We'll ask them all about their quarterbacks, offenses and early recruiting success, especially of Jones and Stoops. Bielema likely will field questions about comparing the Big Ten to the SEC ... and his Twitter account. Malzahn will be asked about getting Auburn's offense back to where it was when he was the offensive coordinator. These guys should have "fun" answering every single one of these, too.

4. Will Alabama make it three in a row? And which teams from the SEC can stop the Tide? We know that it's Alabama's world and we are all just trying to figure out the "process." Coach Nick Saban has all of the parts in place to win his third straight national championship and fourth at Alabama in five years. Saban & Co. will continue to talk about avoiding complacency and "fixing" whatever they deem isn't working at 100 percent. But what the country wants to know is who is ready to end the Bama dynasty? Can A&M tackle the Tide for a second straight year? Is LSU tough enough? Can Georgia's defense grow up fast enough? Can Florida's offense figure it out? Does Steve Spurrier have something up his sleeve? The people want to know!

5. There are a lot of unsettled quarterback spots. Auburn had a two-man battle this spring between veteran Kiehl Frazier and rising sophomore Jonathan Wallace. Both left the spring pretty even. Kentucky had three vying for the No. 1 spot in Jalen Whitlow, Patrick Towles and Maxwell Smith. Whitlow has the slight edge. Missouri had James Franklin, Maty Mauk and Corbin Berkstresser fight it out. It looks like it's down to Franklin and Mauk, but coach Gary Pinkel has been quiet about it. Tennessee has Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman competing. Worley has the edge but little experience. And Vanderbilt watched Austyn Carta-Samuels and Patton Robinette compete. Carta-Samuels has the lead, but Robinette isn't out of it.
On Monday, we took a look at the top five offenses and if they could replicate their success from 2012. But what about those offenses that struggled last season? Can they rebound this fall?

Thirteen might be an unlucky number in the realm of superstition, but I think it could bring some good luck to a few offenses that weren't so good a year ago.

It's early, but here are three offenses that I think will rebound in 2013:

2012 total offense: 305 yards per game
2012 scoring offense: 18.7 points per game

The Tigers' offense never really adapted to former offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler's pro-style offense. It was the whole square peg and round hole deal. Quarterback play suffered, which meant the receiving game struggled. The only real bright spots were running back Tre Mason and wide receiver Emory Blake. Mason rushed for 1,002 yards and averaged 5.9 yards per carry. Blake registered 789 receiving yards, which was 650 yards more than the second-highest total on the team.

But help is on the way with Gus Malzahn bringing his spread offense back to the Plains. He has to find his quarterback, but Kiehl Frazier is very familiar with Malzahn, and Jonathan Wallace fits the spread nicely. Mason is back, but the Tigers have to find consistency at the receiver spot with Blake gone. Luckily, guys like junior Quan Bray and freshman Ricardo Lewis made good strides this spring. Trovon Reed will still be counted on, and so will tight ends Brandon Fulse and C.J. Uzomah.

Having a solid offensive line and the return of the spread should help Auburn's offense dig itself out of the offensive cellar of the SEC.

2012 total offense: 334
2012 scoring offense: 26.5

If not for a solid running game (187.7 yards per game), the Gators' offense would have really sputtered. Quarterback Jeff Driskel averaged just 137.2 passing yards per game and failed to reach 100 yards in a game four times last fall. Outside of tight end Jordan Reed, the Gators had no real consistent receiving target. When a play had to be made, the passing game rarely delivered.

The good news is Florida will have the same offensive coordinator -- Brent Pease -- for consecutive years for the first time since Urban Meyer was in charge. Driskel feels -- and looks -- much more confident, and he'll have a more physical offensive line to work with. The receivers still have to prove themselves, but Driskel will be able to defer to his running game yet again. Mike Gillislee might be gone, but the staff was very impressed with sophomore Matt Jones this spring, while Mack Brown, Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane will provide the Gators with a nice running back stable.

Florida's coaches are counting on Quinton Dunbar and true freshman Demarcus Robinson to lead the receivers, but more players have to step up. Still, having a strong offensive line and another year in the same offensive system will really help the Gators this fall.

2012 total offense: 356.4
2012 scoring offense: 25.8

The Tigers dealt with a ton of injuries on offense last fall. Only Evan Boehm was able to stay healthy along the offensive line through the entire season, and quarterback James Franklin dealt with a bad shoulder, a concussion and a bad knee. Thanks to that, Mizzour averaged less than 220 passing yards last season.

Most of the same pieces are back on offense, and players seemed comfortable with new offensive coordinator Josh Henson, who was promoted after David Yost resigned. Franklin's shoulder is better, and his confidence is high. It also helps that his main receiving targets are back, and explosive running back Henry Josey is returning from his devastating 2011 knee injury. Dorial Green-Beckham, the former top recruit, is more mature and made a handful of plays this spring.

The offensive line was healthier this spring, but had some communication issues throughout the spring. That has to get fixed before the season. If it does, the Tigers' offense should make good strides in 2013.

Lunchtime links

May, 7, 2013
Lots of playoff fun last night in basketball and hockey.

Auburn Tigers spring wrap

May, 6, 2013
2012 record: 3-9
2012 conference record: 0-8
Returning starters: Offense: 9; defense: 9; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

RB Tre Mason, C Reese Dismukes, DE Dee Ford, DT Angelo Blackson, CB Chris Davis, S Demetruce McNeal

Key losses

RB Onterio McCalebb, WR Emory Blake, TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, DE Corey Lemonier, LB Daren Bates

2012 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Tre Mason* (1,002 yards)
Passing: Kiehl Frazier* (753 yards)
Receiving: Emory Blake (789 yards)
Tackles: Daren Bates (94)
Sacks: Dee Ford* (6)
Interceptions: Daren Bates, Trent Fisher* (1)

Spring answers

1. Getting defensive: Veteran defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson implemented his 4-2-5 scheme this spring, and the early returns were promising. The real test will come in the fall, but there’s every reason to believe the Tigers will be significantly better on defense in 2013 after finishing 13th in the league in total defense a year ago. There’s depth up front. Senior end Dee Ford had a terrific spring, and Johnson likes the way his cornerbacks, led by senior Chris Davis, lock down on receivers.

2. Garrett emerges: One of the most pleasant surprises of the spring for the Tigers was junior Justin Garrett’s emergence at the “Star” position. Garrett had not done a lot previously as a linebacker, but possessed the combination of size and speed to slide into that hybrid linebacker/safety role that’s become a staple of Johnson’s defenses. The 6-1, 214-pound Garrett can cover well enough to match up in the slot, but also has the muscle to hold up in run support.

3. Catching on: There really hasn’t been a vertical passing game to speak of on the Plains for the last two seasons. But this group of receivers provided new hope this spring. Sophomore Ricardo Louis could be on the verge of a breakout season. Junior Jaylon Denson flew in under the radar and impressed with his consistency this spring, while juniors Quan Bray and Trovon Reed and sophomore Sammie Coates all have big-play potential.

Fall questions

1. Settling on a quarterback: It was a struggle at quarterback the whole way last season with true freshman Jonathan Wallace finishing up as the starter. Now, the spring has come and gone under new coach Gus Malzahn, and the Tigers are still not sure who their quarterback will be in the fall. Kiehl Frazier and Wallace are locked in a dead heat. They combined to throw six touchdown passes and 12 interceptions last season. Newcomer Nick Marshall, who played defensive back at Georgia, might have a chance to get into the mix when he arrives this summer.

2. Adjusting to the pace: Auburn spent much of spring practice getting used to Malzahn’s dizzying pace on offense. There’s no such thing as playing too fast in Malzahn’s world, and it takes some getting used to. He wants to play even faster than the Tigers did when he was the offensive coordinator from 2009-11. Settling on the right quarterback will be a big part of that, but equally important will be settling on the right five offensive linemen and making sure they’re in tune both physically and mentally with Malzhan’s hurry-up approach.

3. Rising from the ashes: Malzahn has said repeatedly that the Tigers are moving on and not rehashing what did or didn’t happen last season when they failed to win a game in the SEC and completely tanked at the end of the season. Those kind of collapses are hard to get out of your mind, even with an entirely new coaching staff onboard. Five of the first six games are at home, which could come in handy. It will be interesting to see how the Tigers respond when they hit their first patch of adversity.

SEC lunch links

May, 2, 2013
Making the rounds on a Thursday:



Thursday, 9/18
Saturday, 9/20