Auburn is making another quarterback switch in hopes of reviving one of the nation's worst offenses.
Coach Gene Chizik said Tuesday that freshman Jonathan Wallace will start Saturday against New Mexico State. He replaces Clint Moseley, who sustained a left ankle injury last weekend against Texas A&M and wasn't expected to practice Tuesday.
The dual-threat Wallace might have earned the opportunity, anyway. He had been used in a Wildcat quarterback role before relieving former starter Kiehl Frazier in that game after Moseley's injury but had success in running more of the offense. Chizik calls him "very mature beyond his years" and said he spent all of Monday's off day in the film room preparing.
"It was really neat on the sideline to watch as he made a couple of drives happen and go down the field," Chizik said. "It sparked some energy and some passion into our bench on both sides of the ball.
"One of the things that our team does have for Jonathan is a very high level of respect for the way he prepares and the way he goes about his business. That's not just in the classroom and what they know he puts in extra, but the way he works on the field. "
Wallace passed for 122 yards and two touchdowns and ran 13 times for 71 yards against the Aggies to provide a bright spot for the Tigers (1-7).
"I hate to use the word surprised because that makes you think I didn't think he could do it," Chizik said. "I thought he was extremely poised under pressure. I thought he made some throws under pressure that were really, really good. Just handling some of the calls out there that he's definitely had (practice repetitions) at but not near as many reps as a starter would, I thought it was very impressive. What's more impressive about him is — and we'll see more now that he's the starter — but he doesn't get rattled. He's just a very poised young man, beyond his years, in terms of what we've seen up to this point."
Frazier has been dealing with arm problems, but Chizik said he could play if needed. Wide receiver Ricardo Louis could also be an emergency quarterback since he ran a few plays in the Wildcat role.
Auburn offered a scholarship to Wallace, from nearby Phenix City, late in the recruiting process when he appeared headed to Central Florida. Fellow freshman Zeke Pike was dismissed from the team after going through spring practice.
Chizik and teammates quickly praised Wallace for his maturity and leadership in preseason camp. Now, he's trying to hold onto the starting job for the final four games.
"Ultimately it's a blessing, that's the way I look at it," Wallace said. "It's a tremendous blessing. Coming in I always told my parents and friends that no matter where I go God is going to take care of me and He's done that so far."