AUBURN, Ala. — Kiehl Frazier’s father deals with statistical analysis routinely for work, and knows Auburn fans don’t have nearly enough information to judge the quarterback’s passing ability.
“It’s just too small of a data sampling to be able to draw a conclusion on how good a thrower he can be,” said Frazier’s dad, Robin Beach, a medals trader.
Fans will have a much bigger sampling to work with after Saturday night when Kiehl Frazier makes his starting debut against No. 14 Clemson in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
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Frazier got plentiful chances to show his running ability last season, but threw only 12 passes. He beat out Clint Moseley for the starting job in preseason camp.
Frazier is returning to the stadium where he had his best game. He ran for a career-high 55 yards and two touchdowns against Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
“It’ll be very interesting to see him perform Saturday night,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “Here’s the deal with Kiehl: He did get enough experience last year so that when he walks on the field, it won’t be the first time Saturday night. That’s a good thing. Kiehl’s a very, very talented athlete. He’s worked extremely hard to get to this position. We expect big things out of him. Our standard doesn’t come down and say, `Look it’s your first game as a starter…’ No, we expect a lot out of that position. He understands that.
“He’s matured as a player and we’re excited to watch him play.”
Frazier arrived last year as one of the nation’s most highly touted quarterbacks. He was USA Today’s National Offensive Player of the Year after leading Shiloh Christian in Springdale, Ark., to a third straight Class 4A state title. He was named MVP of all three championship games.
And he showed then he can throw the ball. Frazier threw for 2,975 yards and 42 touchdowns as a senior, while also rushing for 1,164 yards and 22 scores.
“I really can’t say what they’re going to do offensively, but he can do both,” Clemson linebacker Corico Wright said. “He can run the football and he can throw it. We’re going to have our hands full.”
So will Frazier. Tailback Mike Dyer is gone and freshman Jovon Robinson, who had been likely to see action, was ruled ineligible by the NCAA. Plus, the offensive line has three new starters, with sophomore Tunde Fariyike replacing recently suspended center Reese Dismukes.
Chances are, there will be plenty of chances for people to see Frazier’s arm in action.
“I believe they’re going to see a different Kiehl Frazier,” offensive lineman Chad Slade predicted. “I believe in Kiehl 100 percent, and I know that Kiehl’s going to go out there and get the job done.”
Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said Frazier’s biggest priorities are the basics: manage the huddle and the offense and protect the ball.
“Every first-year quarterback that I’ve ever had, the last thing I leave with them is just get the snap,” Loeffler said. “Ball security would be a premium.
“What he needs to do is just go out there and do his job to the best of his ability. When things go bad, keep his head up, keep going and get ready to go for the next play.”
Frazier, who was not made available to reporters this week, said when he was named the No. 1 quarterback that he viewed it as “kind of a starting point.”
“I haven’t really taken it like a victory or anything,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to the first game.”
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has known of Frazier since he was an Oklahoma assistant and the quarterback was a hot prospect.
“He’s a big, strong, athletic, highly talented guy,” Venables said. “He’s got a powerful arm. Obviously, they featured him in more of a quarterback run system last year. Very aware of Frazier coming out of high school in Arkansas, just a state away. I know at Oklahoma they recruited him so I know he’s got a very live arm.”
Beach, more than anybody, can vouch for that.
He said his son heaved the ball through the goal post from 60 yards away as a high school freshman after a photographer asked how strong his arm was.
Beach, who now lives in Columbus, Ga., recalls his son playing Pee Wee football in Arkansas as a third-grader with kids two years older. With no kicks or punts, each possession started at the 30.
“Kiehl’s first four plays that he got to touch the ball, he ran for 70 yards,” Beach said. “He had four carries for 280 yards and four touchdowns. After that, because he was so dominating, that they wouldn’t let him carry the ball anymore. He was over on the sidelines begging coach, `Let me go in and play defense, coach.’
“I’ll never forget that because he was almost to the point of tears begging the coach to let him go play defense if they wouldn’t let him play offense anymore, because he wanted to play so bad. I realized then, this kid’s a gamer.”