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September 18, 2013

Quarterback dictates Auburn offense

Gus Malzahn saw both ends of the spectrum during his final two years as Auburn offensive coordinator in 2010-11.

With Cam Newton at quarterback in 2010, Auburn averaged 499 yards per game - 285 rushing and 214 passing. The following year, Malzahn never could find a quarterback to run his system. With Barrett Trotter, Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier dividing the snaps, Auburn gained just 338 yards per game.

Malzahn has returned as Auburn's head coach. Coach Gene Chizik went to a pro-style attack in 2012. Once again, there were quarterback issues as Frazier didn't fit that system. Auburn picked up only 305 yards per game while winning just three times. The poor results cost Chizik his job.

Junior college transfer Nick Marshall is now Auburn's quarterback as he beat out Frazier. Marshall is not close to Newton in ability, but the offense has been balanced and productive in the first three games. Auburn is averaging 239 yards rushing and 202 yards passing per game.

LSU coach Les Miles acknowledged that the quarterback determines what Malzahn's offense will resemble.

"There are similarities and differences between Malzahn's offense this year and his other ones at Auburn," said Miles at his post-practice press conference Wednesday evening. "His offense depends upon the personality of the guy who's got the ball in his hands.

"Cam was an unusual quarterback. He had great skill as a runner and a passer. Cam was Auburn's most powerful runner."

Miles has faced three Malzahn offenses when he was the coordinator at Auburn. LSU allowed more than 10 points only in 2010 when Newton was the quarterback. Auburn scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to win that meeting 24-17.

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It sounded as if defensive tackle Quentin Thomas is the only major contributor who will miss the Auburn game. Thomas, who has an ankle injury, didn't play against Kent State. Miles said that Thomas is "day-to-day." If Thomas is unavailable, Christian LaCouture will be the first tackle off the bench.

According to Miles, Craig Loston will be back in the starting lineup at strong safety. Miles also said that everyone who played against Kent State will be on the field against Auburn. Linebacker Lamin Barrow and cornerback Tre'Davious White left last Saturday's game with injuries.

"The hard work is done," Miles said. "This is a healthy group. There are a certain number of injuries (for a team) each year. Sometimes that number is postponed indefinitely. You can tell it's the start of the SEC because there is more of a sense of urgency with the players this week."

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Miles said very little about the status of running back Jeryl Brazil, who was given a misdemeanor summons for fighting Sept. 11. Brazil didn't play last week against Kent State. Miles refused to confirm that Brazil was suspended for that game. He said that Brazil "might play" against Auburn.


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