Frazier carving bigger role in Auburn's offense
Kiehl Frazier built quite a reputation as a high school star in Arkansas. He's already cultivating one at Auburn even before his first pass completion.
The freshman backup quarterback for the 15th-ranked Tigers has quickly become a fan favorite despite attempting just one collegiate pass going into Saturday's game at No. 10 Arkansas in his home state.
Frazier's role as Auburn's Wildcat quarterback has steadily increased the past few weeks and his runs have supplied a boost to an offense that has needed one at times.
He was even trending on Twitter after a 22-yard run in the Tigers' upset of South Carolina, two days after coach Gene Chizik had a candid, sit-down discussion with his presumed quarterback of the future.
''I talked to him during the week and made it very clear that, `When you get in the game you just need to be you. If we ask you to throw the ball, that's why you threw for 10,000 yards in high school. Throw the ball and be Kiehl Frazier. If we ask you to the run the ball, be confident, get as many yards as you can get and protect the football,''' Chizik said.
''I think he's becoming more confident as the games go on. With that, we'll do whatever we feel like he can do in terms of expanding his role.''
Frazier gained 48 yards on nine carries against South Carolina. He had one carry at Clemson and three for 30 yards the following week against Florida Atlantic.
Now, he's returning to the state where he led Shiloh Christian to state titles in each of his last three seasons and caught the eye of Auburn offensive coordinator - and former Shiloh Christian coach - Gus Malzahn early in his prep career.
''I started going to Razorbacks games when I was 5,'' said Frazier, who is from Springdale, Ark., about 10 miles from Fayetteville. ''So it's definitely kind of a dream come true to get to play in that stadium.''
Frazier was the USA Today National Offensive Player of the Year and listed as the nation's No. 2 quarterback by ESPN.com/Scouts Inc. He hasn't been let loose to fling it like he did in accounting for 2,975 yards passing, 1,164 yards rushing and 64 total touchdowns as a prep senior.
Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen gave him the ultimate compliment for an Auburn quarterback in comparing the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder to current Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton.
''I think more packages will come as the season progresses with Kiehl as he gets more confidence and the coaches get more confidence,'' Lutzenkirchen said. ''It's good to see him out there. Good change-of-pace type player. When he comes in he can throw the ball, he can run the ball, he can present the speed sweep with Onterio (McCalebb). So he's kind of a miniature Cam back there and I think he'll get more touches as the season goes.''
First-year starter Barrett Trotter, meanwhile, has been inconsistent. He has passed for nine touchdowns but also thrown five interceptions and ranks sixth in the SEC in passing and pass efficiency.
Chizik said Frazier isn't ready to run Malzahn's entire offense.
Frazier threw an incompletion against Florida Atlantic and went back to pass once against South Carolina, but had to scramble.
''I wanted to throw it so bad, but I got sacked,'' Frazier said. ''Hopefully I get another chance this weekend.
''They have to be comfortable with me going out there and they have to believe in me to be able to complete the pass,'' he added. ''So I think that's coming pretty soon.''
This isn't the first time Frazier has had to make a big transition. He transferred from the small public school of West Fork, Ark., following his freshman year in high school to the nearby private school football powerhouse Shiloh Christian.
Frazier's transfer caused an uproar among the state's coaches, which only grew louder as the Saints won three straight state championships during Frazier's stay. It played a role in rules changes regarding public-to-private school transfers in Arkansas.
''Say what you want, but he's a different kid,'' said Shiloh Christian coach Josh Floyd, who played quarterback for Malzahn at the school. ''Even though there was negative things or whatever, he had to grow up pretty quick and had no choice. He went through a lot of stuff as a sophomore; I don't know any other sophomore really who's ever had to go through that talk and all that.''
Frazier has stirred a different kind of talk since signing with Auburn, even though most Tigers fans haven't seen him hit a receiver yet.
''He obviously has a big-time arm, even though he's only running right now,'' Floyd said. ''I'm sure once he gets used to the speed of the game a little bit more he'll start showcasing that arm. He's as good as I've ever seen as far as just being able to do everything. He's really just one of those multi-dimensional guys.''
AP Sports Writer Kurt Voigt in Fayetteville, Ark., contributed to this report.