QB Kiehl Frazier crushing second chance Auburn never gave him
One of Auburn’s biggest fans has struggled to keep up with the No. 3 Tigers’ games this season. But Kiehl Frazier has a good excuse: The former Auburn QB-turned-DB-turned-WR has been busy leading D-II Ouachita Baptist of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, to an 8-0 record — the best start the school has had in 100 years.
Frazier completed 67 passes in 128 attempts, but had just a two to 10 touchdown to interception ratio in two seasons playing quarterback for the Tigers before being switched to receiver as Auburn advanced to the 2013 BCS title game.
Frazier, 2010 USA TODAY Sports Offensive Player of the Year and Parade All-American, was recruited to Auburn by then offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn from Shiloh Christian in Arkansas, the same program where the Tigers coach had so much success. However, the QB admits he lost his confidence, which hindered his shot to regain playing time at Auburn.
"The confidence level really wasn’t there," Frazier told FOX Sports. "Physically, I thought I was definitely talented enough to play there but I wasn’t mature enough really to play the position at the time. And whenever I was ready they had moved past me already.
"Going out every Saturday, if you’re not 100 percent confident then you’re not gonna be successful. I really struggled with it, and as a 19-year-old sophomore it was tough to deal with.
"After we started off bad at Auburn, I felt like a lot of the coaches didn’t believe in me. I felt like the team was still on my side, but the coaches didn’t really think I could do it, so that factored into me leaving too."
Frazier said he knew after Auburn lost the championship game to FSU that he wasn’t going back to Auburn and that OBU, where his younger brother Jed Beach is an offensive lineman, seemed like a good fit. Last season had been the first time that he hadn’t been a quarterback since his days in the sixth grade, he says. "It was really tough because I had a great relationship with a lot of the guys at Auburn, and a good relationship with the coaches, but I knew I wanted to play quarterback," Frazier said. "I’ve been doing it my whole life so I felt like I had to make the switch."
At OBU, Frazier had to learn another system with new terminology. Instead of a route tree, OBU has dozens of names for their routes depending on if they’re coming off of a 3-step of 4-step drop or from the play-action game. Frazier won the starting job in the spring and says he began to build back his confidence. The more reps he got from seeing defenses and making decisions, the more that confidence grew. Frazier points to the Oct. 18 game against Harding, which was the No. 13 team in the country, as a turning point.
"That’s when I got all of my confidence back," he says.
Frazier rushed 16 times for 122 yards and threw for 215 yards to lead OBU to a 31-28 OT comeback win, sparked by him leading the team in a 12-play drive in the final 2:37 that was culminated with a 15-yard TD pass to pull Ouachita Baptist within two; he then tied the game by running it in on the two-point conversion.
"The thing that is the most impressive about him is that this is probably his third offensive scheme in college with terminology that he’s had to learn," says OBU coach Todd Knight. "He is very smart. And he also doesn’t get on a roller coaster. He meets adversity very well."
On the season, Frazier has completed over 60 percent of his passes for 1,494 yards to go with a 13-3 TD-INT ratio. He’s also rushed for 505 yards and three more TDs.
As for his old team, Frazier says he talks to his former Auburn teammates pretty much every week. Frazier says he and Malzahn don’t speak often but that’s because he knows the Auburn coach is so busy.
"Growing up, he was a guy that I looked up to," Frazier says. "We had a great relationship in high school and when I was at Auburn. Nothing’s changed there."
And just like his old team, Frazier’s new squad is piling up points and wins.
Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for FOXSports.com and FOX Sports 1. He is also a New York Times Bestselling author. His new book, The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks, came out in October, 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB.