Yes, Auburn's top stated priority during preparation for the Outback Bowl is improving on its 7-5 regular season. At the same time, Malzahn told his offense before practice resumed Saturday that auditions for the 2010 positions have begun.
"We're looking at some of this as an extra spring practice," Malzahn said Sunday. "We're challenging our guys. We'll find out more the more we go."
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said he plans to give his younger players, including current redshirts, extended looks during practice during the next two weeks.
That means 2009 quarterback afterthoughts Clint Moseley and Barrett Trotter aren't waiting for spring practice to start the team's most highly anticipated position battle.
Moseley spent his true freshman season redshirting and working with the scout team. Trotter competed for the starting spot last spring before suffering a knee injury that sidelined him for a good portion of the season.
Each saw extended reps during Sunday's practice and will likely continue to do so throughout bowl practice.
"Those two guys will get quite a few reps before we leave for the bowl site," Malzahn said. "Both of them did a good job (Sunday). They're both eager. They're hard workers, they pay attention to detail and they want to be good, so it was fun to coach those guys (Sunday)."
Moseley impressed defensive coordinator Ted Roof this year. Instead of simply simulating Auburn opponents, Moseley would study film of the quarterbacks to emulate them.
Added snaps for Trotter and Moseley mean fewer snaps for backup quarterback Neil Caudle, who is also vying for the starting position.
Caudle finished last spring entrenched in a position battle with Kodi Burns. Todd beat each of them out for the job early in preseason camp after returning from shoulder surgery. Burns' move to receiver left Caudle and true freshman Tyrik Rollison to compete for the backup spot, a battle Caudle won.
The junior appeared in four games, completing 15 of 20 passes for 170 yards. He threw one touchdown and an interception. He also had a 52-yard touchdown run against Ball State.
Caudle, who was part of an Elite 11 quarterback group that included Tim Tebow, Matt Stafford and Jevan Snead, said Sunday he is confident about winning the starting nod in 2010.
"I feel good about it," he said. "I feel I have more experience now than I've ever had and took a lot of reps this season in games, and I think it's going to help out a lot.
"If I go out there and play like I should, I think I can win this job."That's why I've stayed here — I want to be the starting quarterback here."
The other player hoping to make an impact on the quarterback race — Rollison — will have to wait until spring because of a suspension for violating an unspecified rule.
Rollison, a four-star dual-threat quarterback from Texas, was considered a crown jewel for Auburn's 2009 signing class.
He redshirted this year, but worked with the varsity offense instead of the scout team.
Malzahn also said Rollison got "a lot of reps" during the season, so he doesn't think the freshman's absence will put him far behind the other quarterbacks.
For now, Todd is Auburn's quarterback. He has already broken the program's single-season touchdown passing record and has a chance to lead his team to an 8-5 season.
Chizik and Malzahn have said winning is the primary goal during the next few weeks.
Getting a head start on spring competition, though, isn't far behind.
"At the same time we can use these practices to find a lot of the things we need to find specifically at the quarterback position," Malzahn said.
Next: Outback Bowl, Northwestern vs. Auburn
Jan. 1, 10 a.m., ESPN, 94.5 FM, 810 AM
Caudle in the lead
Once billed as part of an "Elite 11" among high school quarterback prospects that included Tim Tebow (Heisman winner), Matt Stafford (No. 1 pick in 2009 NFL draft) and Jevan Snead, Neil Caudle is probably the favorite to be Auburn's quarterback in 2010. Here's how he performed in limited action in 2009.
vs. Mississippi State
Caudle didn't get any carries or pass attempts during his time in mop-up duty.
vs. Ball State
Caudle went 2-for-3 for 19 yards and threw an interception, and also had a 52-yard touchdown run.
Caudle led the team on its only scoring drive against one of the SEC's top defense, going 3-for-5 for 34 yards and a touchdown pass.
Caudle was 10-for-12 for 117 yards against the FCS school.
— Staff reports