Auburn sticking with QB Barrett Trotter

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn coach Gene Chizik delivered two messages Tuesday: He's standing by quarterback Barrett Trotter, and there's plenty of offensive blame to go around.

Trotter will remain the starter for the 24th-ranked Tigers and their sputtering offense Saturday night when Florida visits, Chizik said. The laundry list of things the coach would like to see improve certainly includes Trotter but it doesn't stop there.

"Let me be clear on this: The receivers have got to catch the ball, the running backs and the offensive line have got to protect," Chizik said. "It's a team game. I expect him to play well but I expect everyone else around him to play well with him.

"Barrett is our quarterback today and he is our quarterback Saturday."

Trotter has been increasingly splitting time with more mobile freshman Kiehl Frazier the past few games, leading some fans to clamor for a change in starter.

Trotter was 6-of-19 passing for 81 yards with an interception in the Tigers' loss at Arkansas and rated his own performance as "pretty bad." Auburn (4-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) was playing without leading receiver Emory Blake (lower leg injury) and Trovon Reed, who was second on the team before missing the last two games with a shoulder injury.

Chizik said Blake's status against the Gators will likely be "a gametime decision." He's even less optimistic that injured guard Jared Cooper will be able to play.

The Tigers had a handful of dropped passes against the Razorbacks and Trotter's interception came on a pass that went through the hands of Benton into a defender's arms. Chizik said the throw was "a little high" but catchable.

"That's what college receivers do, they catch the football but it goes through our hands and it's an interception," he said.

Frazier, whose role is evolving from a running Wildcat quarterback, did rush for 54 yards and a touchdown while completing the first two passes of his career. His other two attempts in the game were picked off, an indication, he admits, that maybe he's not ready to be No. 1 yet whatever some fans say.

"I definitely hear it," Frazier said. "But that's all coach Chizik and (offensive coordinator Gus) Malzahn's decision. I mean, going out there, you could see that I haven't really competed too much in collegiate ball yet, just the way that I kind of handled myself with those two passes.

"Definitely, I've still got a lot of learning to do, I think, before I can be in that position."

Trotter said he was "not concerned at all" about losing his starting job.

"It is a combination of things," he said of the offensive problems. "Sometimes it's me, without a doubt. Sometimes it's a receiver shortening the route maybe 1 or 2 yards. Sometimes it's one lineman not being able to hang onto that block quite as long as they might need to. Those are all problems that we're going to have to deal with. I've got to deal with all of them and find a way to make the passing game efficient."

Auburn managed to overcome the passing deficiencies against South Carolina -- including Trotter's two interceptions -- largely by handing off to Mike Dyer 41 times. He has run for 262 yards in the past two games.

The Tigers have been picked off seven times during those games, but two of them came on trick plays with non-quarterbacks throwing. They have managed only four touchdowns and one field goal on 17 ventures across midfield against South Carolina and Arkansas.

In SEC games, Auburn is averaging just 120.7 yards passing with three touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Chizik said he and Malzahn spent considerable time evaluating the entire offense's play, and the issues "very glaring."

"We looked hard at everything," Chizik said. "I'm going to be very clear on this: It's hard for any quarterback to be as productive as you want them to be if everybody else around them is at times not productive as well.

"We evaluated everything, from the offensive line to receivers, running backs and tight ends that weren't catching the football."

He called Malzahn "one of the best playcallers in the country" and said the Tigers will do what they think gives them the best chance to be successful, whether that's downfield passing or more runs.

In the meantime, Trotter is getting used to his position. He paused for several seconds when asked if he had received calls or emails from angry Auburn fans then said, "No comment."

"I'm going to get all the criticism probably when I don't deserve it, and I'm going to get all the praise when I don't deserve it," he said. "That's just part of the position."