Kiehl’s ride: Now on special teams, Frazier hopes journey from QB ends in Kodi Burns moment
by Joe Medley
Jan 04, 2014 | 1926 views |  0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Auburn’s Kiehl Frazier hangs out during BCS Media Day at the Newport Beach Marriott on Saturday morning. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Auburn’s Kiehl Frazier hangs out during BCS Media Day at the Newport Beach Marriott on Saturday morning. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
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NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Kiehl Frazier’s take-one-for-the-team story isn’t likely to end like that of Kodi Burns, at least not immediately.

Auburn might win a national championship when the Tigers play Florida State in Monday’s Bowl Championship Series title game, but Frazier’s special-teams roles mean he’s not likely to wind up with the ball in the end zone, a Burns did against Oregon 2011.

Still, the guy who pulled a Kodi and gracefully accepted a position change when he didn’t win back the quarterback job in August has a role. More than anything, he has peace about it all.

“It was hard at first,” Frazier said during BCS media activities Saturday. “I had played quarterback my whole life. Coming to college, that was my expectation.

“But, whenever I saw how good the team was doing, I knew it was a good decision.”

Frazier has enjoyed quite a ride with his teammates this season. Auburn is 12-1 with an SEC championship a year after going 3-9, including 0-8 in the league.

While former Auburn coach Gene Chizik’s name is most associated with Auburn’s crash a year ago, Frazier was the once-touted recruit who flopped in his first crack as the full-time starting quarterback. By season’s end, he had lost his job to Jonathan Wallace.

It wasn’t all Frazier’s fault. He was recruited to run a spread system and did as the “wildcat” quarterback in 2011, but Chizik switched to a pro-style offense for 2012. Frazier had never run such a system.

Chizik was fired after 2012, and Auburn hired back his former offensive coordinator as head coach. With Gus Malzahn’s return came the return of a system that Frazier was recruited out of Arkansas to run.

But Auburn signed Nick Marshall out of junior college and true freshman Jeremy Johnson. After Marshall, Johnson, Frazier and Wallace battled through spring practice and into August, Auburn’s coaches named Marshall and Johnson the leaders.

Frazier sought Burns’ counsel.

“I just told him that everything happens for a reason,” said Burns, also an Arkansas product and now a graduate assistant on Auburn’s staff. “Sometimes, you don’t know why, but you’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt. It’s part of life.

“Football teaches you lessons, and plenty of them, and it grows you up pretty quick. That’s just part of it, and I told him that, and I think it’s fine.”

Frazier didn’t sulk long.

“Once he didn’t win that job, he came to Coach (Malzahn) and said, 'I want to help the team any way I can,'” Auburn special teams coach Scott Fountain said.

Frazier tried safety for three weeks, then wide receiver, the position Burns accepted after losing the quarterback job to Chris Todd in 2009. Frazier is Marcus Davis’ backup.

Frazier has played in 11 games and taken snaps as a “wildcat” quarterback, contributing 10 carries and 34 yards to the nation’s top rushing attack. He has not thrown or caught a pass.

Now wearing jersey No. 25 instead of No. 10, his quarterback number, he’s either a starter or backup on four special teams: punt and punt return and kickoff and kickoff return. Whether he’s on the field often depends on which return Auburn has called.

“This game, he should be in on punt return the whole game, unless I pull him off for a specific thing we might do on punt return,” Fountain said.

Appropriately, Frazier is like the “quarterback” of the punt return team. His job includes making sure everyone around him is aligned right.

“As a special teams guy, you love when maybe a quarterback comes to you,” Fountain said. “They’re always heads-up guys, and that really helps on special teams.”

The multiple position moves have slowed Frazier’s development at any one spot. As the Tigers have made their remarkable turnaround this season, he’s had moments with mixed emotions.

“There’s a point where you’re down because you’re not on the field,” he said. “Coming out of high school, being a big-time recruit and having all of that expectation, it’s just how it goes.

“Right now, this is where my football career is at, and I’ll try to move forward.”

Frazier said he has considered transferring and might after this season, though he’s “not sure yet.”

For now, he has at least one more game in an Auburn uniform and says he’s focused on preparing for his roles. In a crazy season that saw Auburn beat Georgia on a tipped Hail Mary pass and Alabama on a return of a missed field goal, who’s to say a crazy bounce won’t come Frazier’s way?

The ball came Burns’ way in the BCS final, and he lunged over the goal line with Cam Newton’s pass.

“Hopefully,” Frazier said, “my story turns out like that, too.”

Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, jmedley@annistonstar.com. On Twitter @jmedley_star.

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