On tape from his high school days, Joey Gatewood electrifies, zig-zags and makes defenses look plain silly. The raw athleticism surging from his 6-foot-5 frame drew numerous Cam Newton comparisons in the spring, despite Gatewood’s lackluster performance in Auburn’s A-Day spring game.
But from the time the former four-star prospect Gatewood arrived at Auburn as an early enrollee, the Bartram Trail (Fla.) High School product has been caged up in a non-contact jersey.
At Auburn’s first fall scrimmage, Gus Malzahn turned him loose.
“We let him go live today,” Malzahn said Thursday. “That really made a difference with his overall confidence. He showed some really good things standing out with that.”
At A-Day, Gatewood’s passing ability as a true freshman was obviously not well groomed, but matters became worse when he was unable to take off and run when the going got tough. He finished 4-for-14 passing with 0 yards and carried the ball 6 times for -5 yards. Even then, the Newton contrasts persisted, and maybe for good reason.
“I don’t overreact in a spring game setting,” Malzahn said after A-Day. “We had a guy named Cam Newton who went 3-for-8 in a spring game, and people were concerned.”
Making throws and decisions on the run in the scrimmage “came natural” to Gatewood, and live action put the quarterback more in his element.
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“When you have a quick whistle with a (non-contact) jersey, you can’t see exactly what people will do when things break down,” Malzahn said.
Malzahn noted that Gatewood shared third-team reps with newcomer Cord Sandberg and second-team reps with incumbent backup Malik Willis, who has impressed Malzahn with his improvement after Jarrett Stidham’s shoulder injury thrust Willis into the starting quarterback spot in spring ball.
“He’s developing,” Malzahn said of Willis. “He’s a guy that if we let him go live, he can extend some things. Chip (Lindsey) is really being demanding on him to practice like a starter. You can tell Malik is more mature than he was last year.”
Linebacker Deshaun Davis revealed that the defense did force a trio of interceptions Thursday that were hauled in by Traivon Leonard, John Broussard Jr. and Jayvaughn Myers. Davis couldn’t remember who intercepted which quarterback, but Stidham was quick to say that he had in a turnover-less day, leaving Gatewood, Willis and Sandberg as the suspects.
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