Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said the simple fact that offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is calling the shots means the Tigers have no worries.
“It won’t matter,” Taylor said. “Just watch. I’m 100 percent confident that whoever he puts at quarterback is going to play big in this offense.
“I’m a true believer. I’m riding the Gus bus.”
Taylor isn’t exactly making a blind leap of faith. This is Malzahn’s sixth season as an offensive coordinator on the college level, and whoever starts for the Tigers this season will become his sixth starting quarterback.
Despite that lack of continuity, every quarterback who has been plugged into the Malzahn system has produced.
Malzahn’s offense is always among the nation’s best in all categories, including back-to-back years at Tulsa where the Hurricanes ranked No. 1 in total offense.
Last year’s national championship team at Auburn ranked fourth in the nation in total offense.
“Well, I’ve been pretty fortunate to have some talented guys that were very, very good quarterbacks,” Malzahn said. “I think we’re a quarterback-friendly offense, we’re a quarterback-oriented offense.
“The expectations are high for the quarterback position in our offense, and I think all of our quarterbacks understand that and are working hard to be that sixth guy.”
Cam Newton, Auburn’s record-setting Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback of a year ago, is probably the only quarterback Malzahn has worked with who would fit the label of “exceptionally talented.”
The two who are battling for the starting job this year are probably better examples.
Clint Moseley and Barrett Trotter exited the spring in a tie for the No. 1 job.
Moseley, a redshirt sophomore, and Trotter, a redshirt junior, have limited playing experience but at least have significant exposure to Malzahn’s system, a spread, shotgun offense that attempts to put pressure on the defense by operating at a fast pace.
Both say the offense is quarterback-friendly.
“I think it’s a simple offense, but at the same time it builds on itself very quickly,” Trotter said. “It kind of compounds I guess you could say. It can go from something really simple to something relatively complex fairly quickly. It’s easy to pick up, but it has complexities that are added as you go.”
Moseley said Malzahn’s offense seems to cover every possibility on every play.
“What makes his offense different are the options he gives us as quarterbacks,” Moseley said. “If you’re going to stop us on any play, it’s going to have to be a blown assignment on our part. It’s going to take almost perfect defense. Some of these plays, he’s got an answer for anything. He gives us a great opportunity to be successful.”
Taylor says practice makes perfect.
“We go through so many walk-throughs, oh my God,” he said. “It comes down to alignment, assignment and effort. If a guy knows his alignment and knows what to do when he gets there, this offense will successful.”
Malzahn says he attempts to build the offense around the things the quarterback does best.
“You identify who your quarterback is,” he said. “You identify his strengths and try to build around his strengths. You ask him not to do things he’s not strong at or not good at. Once we identify our starter, we’ll kind of tweak our offense. And, just like last year with Cam, it took us two to three, almost four games to really figure out exactly how he’s going to react to every situation and really what his strengths are.
“So we’ll identify, we’ll tweak, and we’ll rely on the same offensive philosophy, the same base offense at the core. But we’ll do our best to try and make that quarterback successful, and our offense successful.”
If recent history is any indication, success is in store for Auburn’s starting quarterback.
“We’ll be successful on offense,” Taylor said. “Gus will make sure of that.
“He’s a magician. He’s Harry Potter. All he needs is the broom. He’s got the glasses.”
Charles Bennett covers Auburn University sports for The Star.