Florida’s quarterback position may be in even worse shape, prompting coach Will Muschamp to not name his starer until the day before the game.
Trotter hopes to put another subpar showing behind him and help the 24th-ranked Tigers send the Gators to a third straight defeat Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
While Muschamp waited until Friday to announce that freshman Jacoby Brissett will make a second consecutive start, Chizik made it known early in the week that Trotter would keep the starting job.
After playing behind Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton last season, Trotter has had a difficult time taking over the vacancy at Auburn (4-2, 2-1 SEC). The junior ranks ninth in the conference in completion percentage at 56.0 and seventh in passing yards per game at 162.7. He’s thrown six interceptions and nine touchdown passes, but five of those scores came in wins over inferior foes Utah State and Florida Atlantic.
While Trotter has looked shaky in just about every game, last week’s performance was undoubtedly his worst. He completed 6 of 19 passes for 81 yards with an interception in a 38-14 loss to No. 10 Arkansas.
Freshman Kiehl Frazier replaced Trotter and managed to get the offense in gear, but most of his impact came in the run game with 13 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown. He completed his first two passes for 18 yards, but his only other two attempts were intercepted.
Despite Auburn fans clamoring for Frazier to take over at QB, Chizik quelled any controversy by announcing Tuesday that Trotter is starting. He also felt Trotter isn’t the only one to blame for the woes of a Tigers offense which ranks seventh in the SEC with 374.7 yards per game after averaging a league-best 499.2 last year.
“Let me be clear on this: The receivers have got to catch the ball, the running backs and the offensive line have got to protect,” Chizik said. “It’s a team game. I expect him to play well but I expect everyone else around him to play well with him.
“Barrett is our quarterback today and he is our quarterback Saturday.”
Muschamp hadn’t been as clear about the quarterback situation, mainly because former starter John Brantley remains out with a sprained ankle. Brissett opened practice this week as the starter, but he’s been splitting reps with fellow freshman Jeff Driskel.
Driskel was originally slated to start last Saturday against top-ranked LSU in place of Brantley, but Muschamp decided earlier in the day that Brissett would get the call. Muschamp felt Driskel wasn’t healthy enough after injuring his ankle in relief of Brantley in a 38-10 loss to Alabama a week earlier.
Brissett, who became Florida’s first true freshman quarterback to take his first career snap as a starter, had a rough time against the stingy LSU defense in last Saturday’s 41-11 loss. He completed 8 of 14 passes for 94 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
“He’s going to be a really good football player for us,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got to play better around him in some spots and create some more situations in the run game.”
It didn’t help Brissett that the normally potent ground game - led by Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey - totaled 113 yards after entering the matchup averaging 210.2. Demps, slowed by an apparent ankle injury, had two carries for no yards.
The Gators (4-2, 2-2) hope Demps is closer to full strength when they face an Auburn defense that ranks 103rd out of 120 FBS schools against the run, allowing an average of 201.8 yards.
Florida finished with 213 total yards against LSU, its fifth-lowest total since 1996, one week after being held to 223 by the Crimson Tide. The back-to-back pitiful showings dropped Florida from No. 12 to out of the Top 25 entirely, and made it clear to Muschamp there needs to be some adjustments to the offense.
“Certainly, we’ve got to do something else offensively,” he said. “If you continue to do the same things, you’ll get the same results. So we need to change.”
Although both offenses appear to be in a bit of disarray, there could be an exciting finish if recent history repeats itself. Each of the four meetings since 2001 have been decided in the final minute, with the Tigers prevailing three times.
These teams haven’t met since 2007, when unranked Auburn kicked a field goal as time expired to upset then-No. 4 Florida 20-17.