Freshman QB Wallace continues to make strides

Jonathan Wallace is barely five months out of high school, but he’s shown Auburn’s team and fans he can hang with the big guys.

It’s rare to see a true-freshman quarterback leading a team. It’s even more rare for that same true-freshman to make his debut during prime time on ESPN against the No. 2 team in the nation.

Wallace did just that on Sept. 22, and he did it well.

He had 15 yards on three carries and two key first downs after coming in as the Wildcat quarterback.

“It’s great,” Wallace said when asked about his role in the game. “We’re a team. We’re going to do whatever we can to get some Ws. Just being able to help the team out, it’s big.”

Despite playing a limited role, Wallace proved to the nation what the coaches already knew: he can be an offensive threat in a defensively stout SEC.

“Jonathan has made a pretty consistent track in terms of improvement out of practice, and we like his poise,” said coach Gene Chizik. “He is an extremely intelligent young man when it comes to the game of football. He was very successful in high school with his team, and he earned the right to play. That is as simple as I can put it, and he will continue to earn the right to play some more.

“It is tough getting in there for the first time in a game like this and being productive. So, I was very proud of him. He secured the ball. He made some tough yards when we needed him to, which was exciting to see, and we will continue to work him.”

The 6-2, 197-pound quarterback knows how important the position is, dating back to his days as a Central-Phenix City Blue Devil. In his senior season he led his team to a 12-2 season and the semifinals of the 6A AHSAA playoffs, passing for 1,761 yards and 12 touchdowns and running for another 891 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Wallace understands he isn’t expected to produce similar numbers in his current role, but that hasn’t deterred him from learning the offense and establishing himself as a team leader.

“That’s just something that I have to do in being one of those guys that’s behind them,” Wallace said. “I have to be willing to work hard when I’m not the ‘guy’. I have to work hard and play with them and know what’s going on in case something happens. I always have to stay ready.”

Chizik and the coaching staff have praised Wallace’s work ethic and maturity since he first came to the Plains.

“He’s a very confident young guy,” Chizik said. “He picks things up well, he makes good decisions, he’s a tough kid. All of those things together gave us confidence that he could get into a game and be productive.”

If last Saturday’s game is any indication, that respect is only going to grow.

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