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July 17, 2013

SEC MEDIA DAYS (AUBURN NOTEBOOK): Three years after Cam, Tigers struggling to fill void

HOOVER — Three years ago, a quarterback by the name of Cam Newton took Auburn and its fans by storm, punishing defenses week after week en route to the Tigers' first national championship since 1957.

Since Newton's departure, however, Auburn's production out of the quarterback position has been less than ideal.

Last year, it reached a tipping point for most fans, as the Tigers struggled mightily on offense, averaging just more than 18 points per game — their lowest mark in more than a decade — while their three quarterbacks — Kiehl Frazier, Jonathan Wallace and Clint Moseley — combined for just seven touchdowns passes as opposed to an alarming 15 interceptions.

Frazier and Wallace return, in addition to newcomers Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson, as potential starters under center for the Orange and Blue.

Coach Gus Malzahn is hoping to name a quarterback as soon as possible as the Tigers inch closer and closer to their season-opener against Washington State.

For many players, they're hoping right along with their head coach.

"It's extremely critical," Auburn fullback Jay Prosch said about naming a quarterback and having a passing game in the SEC. "You have to have a double threat. You can't just have a run game. The four guys we are looking at now, we support them and work with them now."

Malzahn added a different perspective.

"Anytime you're going to have four players, that's definitely a concern," he said. "We'll be doing things a little bit different in fall camp early. We're going to have to have strategies in place to evaluate them and put them in different situations as early as we can."



% FRONT AND CENTER: While the quarterback is of paramount importance in Auburn's offensive system, the center position also demands a sharp player with a terrific work ethic and a high attention to detail.

For the Tigers, that's where Reese Dismukes shines.

The junior offensive lineman anchors what Malzahn hopes will be one of his team's stronger units throughout the season.

"It's very valuable," Malzahn said of Dismukes' role. "We go fast, and he touches the ball every time. He has to ID not only the run game, but the pass game. He had an excellent spring, and his leadership has really stepped up. I'm proud of Reese."

Dismukes is one of four returning starters for the Tigers along the offensive front, including Greg Robinson, Patrick Miller and Chad Slade.

Although the unit as a whole has a wealth of potential, they'll need to improve in certain areas moving forward including sacks allowed (37), where the Tigers ranked 109th in the FBS.

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