HOOVER — Gus Malzahn doesn’t know when it’ll be.
He isn’t going to push it. He isn’t going to set a deadline, or any hard timetable.
But he expects, under the heat of camp and rigors of practices this fall, that ‘the guy’ to step forward.
By actions and through performance, the coaches will realize who the starting quarterback is going to be, and the players will too, Malzahn figures — and that’s when they’ll say the word.
Auburn’s goal is to name a starting quarterback before the season opener, and the team’s head coach hopes it happens sooner than later, Malzahn said Thursday during his media blitz at SEC Media Days.
Malzahn shook his head at the idea of a two-quarterback system, and said the Tigers want either Joey Gatewood or Bo Nix to emerge as players the team can hang a hat on — as he spoke with the local media before his time at the podium at the Wynfrey, the last of 14 conference head coaches to parade out representatives of their teams and preview their upcoming seasons.
At that podium, it didn’t take Malzahn long to get to the quarterback battle, calling it the “big question” going into the fall. That much is obvious. Auburn is going to start a freshman either way, in the redshirt freshman Gatewood or the true freshman Nix, when the team opens its season against Oregon in Dallas.
Malzahn made it clear Thursday that he wants to name a starter, and soon.
“Right now, our goal is just to have a starter for the first game, and all that,” Malzahn said candidly on a couch on the third floor before going to the podium on the second floor.
When that happens will be up to Gatewood or Nix, or both, he said.
“I really don’t have any kind of goal or anything,” he said on the timeline of naming a starter. “We’re just going to go with it. We’ve got a good plan to evaluate our quarterbacks and put them in as many situations as possible. And then, when it’s time, usually what happens is that the whole team usually knows it, you know. So whenever that time happens, we’re going to name a starting quarterback.
“I hope that is earlier rather than later, but I’m not going to try to push it. I’m just going to let it happen.”
Malzahn announced soon after the completion of spring practice that the coaches had narrowed the position battle at quarterback down to two candidates for the starting job, in Gatewood and Nix. Former Auburn quarterback Malik Willis has since transferred to Liberty during the summer.
In Gatewood and Nix, he touted the talent in both, but said it would be ideal to name a clear No. 1 and that he wasn’t ready to say they could split time on the field this fall.
“The good thing is that both of those guys can be a run threat, which I think is important,” Malzahn said. “Both can create when things break down. They showed that in the spring. They both have big-time arms. So the good thing is, I think we have two good options.
“It’s going to be a fierce battle.”
Fierce, and fast, if Malzahn has his way.
Malzahn said he’s open to whatever gives the team its best chance at winning, when asked about a two-quarterback system, but said that having a clear starter is ideal. He stopped short of agreeing when he was asked if he’d like to see both get a chance at in-game action early in the season.
“I just depends,” Malzahn said. “I’m not ready to go there yet. Right now, our goal is just to have a starter for the first game and all that, who wins the job.
“But both of them, like I said, are very talented. We’ll see what happens.”