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QB battle just one of many at Auburn

Photo by Mike Phillips

Photo by Mike Phillips

AUBURN, Ala. -- The Auburn quarterback competition is pretty crowded already, but Barrett Trotter said he would have welcomed more competition.

The Tigers tried and failed to sign former North Carolina State starter Russell Wilson as the presumed front-runner this summer, but he wound up choosing Wisconsin.

That leaves Trotter, Clint Moseley and freshman Kiehl Frazier vying to replace Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton when the defending national champions open preseason camp Wednesday night. Trotter said Tuesday that he and Moseley asked offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn about Wilson's recruitment but weren't fazed by it.

"We asked him about it and he said they're always trying to bring in whoever they can," Trotter said Tuesday. "We were like, 'That's fine, bring in whoever you want. It's not going to cause me any trouble if you bring him in. It's my job to beat him out, it's not your job not to bring him in.'

"In the grand scheme, he's not here. But had he been, or anybody else, it's just something you have to deal with."

Among the quarterback contenders, Trotter is the only one with any experience. And that amounts to just nine pass attempts in three seasons, including a redshirt year. Whoever wins the job will be largely an unknown entity in game action.

"Anytime you're in this position, you're going to feel pressure, much less following Cam and the season we had last year," Trotter said. "Those things are always going to be there, but it's something you can't really focus too much on. Just enough to make you work harder, maybe."

In that case, effort shouldn't be a problem during camp for the Tigers. Only three starters return on both offense and defense, creating chances for incoming freshmen from the second straight Top-5 recruiting class and career backups to battle for prominent spots on the depth chart.

That list of potential impact newcomers includes defensive backs Jonathan Rose and Erique Florence, offensive linemen Christian Westerman, Reese Dismukes and Greg Robinson and defensive tackle Gabe Wright

And there were no other experienced "free agent" candidates like Wilson to replace, say, Lombardi Award winning defensive tackle Nick Fairley. All those question marks led the Tigers to be picked fifth in the Southeastern Conference Western Division.

"We have guys that are youthful," said sophomore defensive end Nose Eguae, already one of the line's elder statesmen. "Some people, when you're looking at preseason expectations, preseason awards, preseason watch lists, it's based on what you've done before. If somebody hasn't seen you before, it's a sense of, youthfulness is lack of talent. But we're not setting up youthfulness as a lack of talent, we're setting up youthfulness as guys that are ready to compete, ready to go out there and work and win games on Saturday. That's what we're going to do."

The quarterbacks especially will face scrutiny. Malzahn has said he will try to identify a starter "as quick as we can."

"But we've got to be 110 percent sure that's our guy because that's who we're going to go with and that's who's going to lead our team," he said earlier this summer. "There's some other positions that are wide-open that we're in the same position. We may be able to identify the quarterback quicker than we can some other positions.

"That's going to be our big job as an offensive staff, identifying the guys that we're going into the year with."

Trotter, who graduates with a Communications degree on Saturday and will start graduate school this fall, and Moseley have been around. Wednesday will mark Frazier's first practice after spending the summer working out with his new teammates.

He was listed as the nation's No. 2 quarterback prospect by ESPN.com/Scouts Inc.

"Kiehl just getting in here, he has a very strong arm," Auburn receiver Emory Blake said. "He's been slinging it in there. We just need to see him, what he's like during fall camp with the defense coming at him, how he's going to respond, how he's going to run our pace. He has to get those big guys going.

"It's a very challenging job as a quarterback. Clint and Barrett have been here. It's going to be interesting to see what Malzahn does after fall camp is over with."