May 29, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
DESTIN, Fla. — Gus Malzahn says he wants to keep the SEC's eight-game conference schedule, likes the Auburn-Georgia rivalry and is open minded about what kind of quarterback he wants to win the starting job this fall.
Nothing new on the latter. He's been open minded about starting quarterbacks a long time.
"Seven quarterbacks in seven years. Some of them were throwers. Some of them were runners. And, of course, in Cam's case, he could do it all," Malzahn said Wednesday. "Obviously, you look for a guy who can do everything, but we've had success with different quarterback talent."
Malzahn won with three different starting quarterbacks at Auburn in his first go-around with the Tigers. He's had a different guy every year he's been a college coach.
Auburn's spring ended with Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace both listed atop the quarterback depth chart. Newcomers Nick Marshall, Jeremy Johnson and Jason Smith will have a shot this fall.
No matter what, Malzahn has to build Auburn back.
"There's no doubt there are some challenges," he said. "But the good thing is Auburn is a great place. Four years ago we were in a similar situation the first time. We have a plan in place in the best conference in college football."
Malzahn says he's done "a lot of listening" during the SEC spring meetings, his first as Auburn's head football coach.
"A lot of discussion on different topics," he said.
But the main topic has been a possibility of going from an eight-game to a nine-game conference schedule; and the possibility of changing the 6-1-1 conference schedule — which ensures the rivalry game between Auburn and Georgia plus a rotating SEC East team — in favor of a 6-2 schedule in which Auburn would play a rotating schedule against two East teams.
The overwhelming majority of the coaches want to keep the eight-game conference schedule, and Malzahn said he wants to keep the current format as it is. Commissioner Mike Slive said the matter won't be resolved this week, or maybe even soon on how many league games will be played.
"I like the way it's been with the 6-1-1," Malzahn said. "I know playing Georgia is very important to Auburn fans."
Malzahn said the SEC has had plenty of success winning national championships without such a change.
"If you look back the last seven years the conference has been very successful at the end, and I guess that's the most important thing," he said.
Malzahn took exception to the notion that his fast-paced offense is an injury risk to tiring defensive players who cannot be substituted because of the quick play calling. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema offered that Tuesday.
"I'd say that's probably a more in-shape issue than anything," Malzahn said.
"Our philosophy will be the same. We really believe in pace. That'll be very important to us. We want to play fast."
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