HOOVER, Ala. (WSFA) - Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn does not know who will be the starting quarterback when the Tigers open the season against Oregon next month.
One thing is certain though, the starter under center will have not completed a single pass at the collegiate level.
At SEC Media Days in Hoover on Thursday, Malzahn told reporters that either redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood or true freshman Bo Nix will be the starting quarterback for the Tigers this fall.
“Both of them are very athletic. They can create things when things break down,” Malzahn said. “They have big-time arms. Both of them are really hungry for the job.”
Gatewood, a 6-foot-5, 233-pound dual-threat QB, was not in the mix to be quarterback last year after he broke his thumb early on in the season according to Malzahn.
However, Gatewood did make an appearance in Auburn’s bowl game against Purdue. He rushed for 28 yards and did not complete the only pass he attempted in the game.
“We played him [Gatewood] a little bit in the bowl game. But you really saw a difference, a different person step up in the spring,” Malzahn said.
Nix is a highly-touted prospect out of Pinson Valley High School. Nix was the 2018-19 Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year and was considered one of the top recruits in the state of Alabama by all major recruiting services.
Malzahn said Nix is more athletic than people give him credit for and has the potential to be really special.
“Bo is a great competitor. A true freshman coming in. I mean from day one when he stepped on campus, he had the mindset that he was going to the be the starting quarterback, and I think that’s rare,” said Malzahn.
The new quarterback is replacing two-year starter Jarrett Stidham, who led Auburn to the SEC Championship in 2017 and was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Even though Auburn will be inexperienced at the quarterback position, they are returning the entire backfield and starting offensive line.
Senior offensive lineman Prince Tega Wanogho said he feels comfortable with the quarterback competition right now.
“I feel like they are both really competing for a start,” Wanogho said. “They are both good enough players. We go out there, they are fighting over that spot and you can tell they both really want it.”
Malzahn knows that whoever wins the starting quarterback job will have to be surrounded by in order for the team to be successful.
In order for the team to be successful under a freshman quarterback, Malzahn knows that other players will have to step up on both sides of the ball.
“I think you look around college football the last few years, and there’s been some very successful freshman quarterbacks. And if you really look, their team has been really good around them," Malzahn said. “So really that is one of our challenges and one of our goals, is not just defensively, but offensively at every position we need to be really good around whoever’s going to be our starting quarterback.”
Malzahn and his freshman quarterback will head into battle Aug. 31 when they open up against the Oregon Ducks.