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Malik Willis looks like a starter

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Auburn's Malik Williss like 'look a starter' at quarterback in 2nd spring

Updated 7:03 AM; Posted 7:00 AM

By Tom Green

tgreen@al.com

Before Auburn opened spring practice on Thursday, Chandler Cox sent a text to sophomore quarterback Malik Willis.

"You're the guy right now, because obviously Jarrett (Stidham)'s not in there," Cox said in the message. "Just lead us. Don't be afraid to lead."

Willis has done just that through two practices. Willis, who served as Auburn's backup to Stidham for the majority of last season following the dismissal of Sean White, has spent the first week of practice working with the first-team offense while Stidham has been limited due to offseason shoulder surgery.

The 6-foot-1, 202 pounder has apparently looked the part, too.

"He really is taking a step forward and he looks like a starter out there," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Saturday following the second day of spring practice.

Willis saw time in seven games last season, usually in mop-up duty, and completed 6-of-7 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown while adding another 221 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. He impressed teammates and coaches throughout the year, dating back to last spring, when he drew comparisons to former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall due to his athleticism and dual-threat capabilities.

Since then, Willis has become more of a quarterback as he has gotten a full year of experience within Auburn's system and working with offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey under his belt.

"There's something to be said when you go out there and you're playing with the first group from a quarterback standpoint," Malzahn said. "He has seemed more comfortable. Of course, he should, having a year under his belt. He's done a good job so far with his approach, just the attention to detail. Things are becoming natural for him.

"You can tell he's not having to think about a whole lot of stuff. He's starting to just play football. I think that's really important."

Especially for a player who, while he gained some experience last year, had his playing time considerably limited by the circumstances. When asked if he wished they designed more packages for Willis last season, Malzahn balked, saying that they've moved on from last season and have turned the page to 2018.

"You know, last year, Malik would have played -- especially the second half of the season, we would have felt pretty good that we could have run most of our offense," Malzahn said. "We've got a lot of confidence in Malik."

It's why Willis has a seemingly firm hold on the No. 2 job for Auburn, despite Malzahn implying Thursday that freshman Joey Gatewood would be "in the mix in the two-deep." 

Still, Willis' growth has been noticeable to those around him.

"You can tell that Malik has taken that next step, maturity-wise," Cox said. "He's really kind of stepped into that role ... He's been awesome. He's growing up the way he needs to."

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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Big fan of him. Even though we’ve witnessed limited action, I think he can be ever better than NM was. The sky is his limit. 

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22 minutes ago, TAYLORKEETON said:

Big fan of him. Even though we’ve witnessed limited action, I think he can be ever better than NM was. The sky is his limit. 

Willis is a fun kid to watch . We are in very good hands at qb

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31 minutes ago, TAYLORKEETON said:

Big fan of him. Even though we’ve witnessed limited action, I think he can be ever better than NM was. The sky is his limit. 

Pure QB talent I agree.

One of the keys to NM:s success was his mental game.  Usually made good decisions and was absolutely unflappable.

If MW has half that mental makeup he could be unstoppable.

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Like "look a starter"

Someone needs an editor ;p

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10 minutes ago, Zeek said:

Like "look a starter"

Someone needs an editor ;p

Maybe it's Valley-Shakespeare..

"He like, looks a starter.. totally."

 

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Been saying more Lamar Jackson , less NM for a bit now. I think from a form standpoint looking at him from Last year’s A day game, he is light years ahead of NM in that department.

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18 minutes ago, DAG said:

Been saying more Lamar Jackson , less NM for a bit now. I think from a form standpoint looking at him from Last year’s A day game, he is light years ahead of NM in that department.

He will be the A-Day QB so we should know a lot more about him after that game.  I'm guessing they will let him run the normal offense since we need to identify a number of starters and time to make sure he can really back-up JS too. 

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We have our best QB coming back since Cam and our fan base will find a way to make a big deal about the backup. 

 

Not a post downing MW. Just think it’s funny how our fan base operates. 

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8 hours ago, AUsince72 said:

Maybe it's Valley-Shakespeare..

"He like, looks a starter.. totally."

 

I think they saw him as Gatewood passed by and Willis said, “Look a starter.”

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2 hours ago, AuburnEagle79 said:

We have our best QB coming back since Cam and our fan base will find a way to make a big deal about the backup. 

 

Not a post downing MW. Just think it’s funny how our fan base operates. 

That’s because mw is practicing with the ones while JS is coming off surgery! People should be excited he is getting these type of reps! It is a big deal.

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16 hours ago, AuburnEagle79 said:

We have our best QB coming back since Cam and our fan base will find a way to make a big deal about the backup. 

 

Not a post downing MW. Just think it’s funny how our fan base operates. 

Not sure anyone is saying sit Stidham. People are just excited we have a competent ba up and then Joey (wonderboy) Gatewood waiting in the wings. 

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17 hours ago, AuburnEagle79 said:

We have our best QB coming back since Cam and our fan base will find a way to make a big deal about the backup. 

 

Not a post downing MW. Just think it’s funny how our fan base operates. 

I didnt see anyone say bench Stidham. Its okay to be excited about a player.

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regardless of JS coming back  its nice to see if the unfortunate event ever happens that we will have a perceived capable backup that manage and make plays 

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I hope Willis can get meaningful backup reps in 2018.  

wde

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On 3/4/2018 at 7:35 PM, AuburnEagle79 said:

We have our best QB coming back since Cam and our fan base will find a way to make a big deal about the backup. 

 

Not a post downing MW. Just think it’s funny how our fan base operates. 

 

Yeah the writer should talk more about JS staring in the wind without a sling on

giphy.gif

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The funny thing is if we didn't have a quality back up, people would be complaining about how Gus doesn't have a backup plan. Now we are excited that we have a backup plan and we have a fan complaining about that excitement. Poor Gus, he definitely needs that paycheck with this group.

Edited by DAG
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Was told by someone who has been to two practices that Willis shocked him on how accurate he was in passing drills. Said the kid looked great. 

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On my NCAA XBox game Willis beat out Stidham pretty handily.

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Each of quarterbacks should look like an all star if our Offensive line can step up.........  If

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I'm not getting my hopes up.  I've heard this type of stuff more than once from this staff. 

Not intended to be a coach bashing statement, just that we hear it every year.

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The best quarterback is always the one on the bench.

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On 3/8/2018 at 11:11 AM, AFTiger said:

The best quarterback is always the one on the bench.

Unless it's that kid in high school that you hope is going to sign.

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