HOOVER, Ala. -- Emory Blake noticed something the first time Kiehl Frazier stepped on to the practice field as a freshman.
Blake has played with some strong-armed quarterbacks in his career at Auburn. When he arrived on campus, fellow classmate Tyrik Rollison could really throw the ball.
As a sophomore, he caught passes from Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, the reigning NFL Rookie of the Year.
Kiehl Frazier, according to Blake, has a stronger arm than any of them.
He knocks you down with the ball, Blake said. Probably the strongest arm Ive ever seen on a quarterback. When Cam first got here, he was throwing hard, but I dont know if he was throwing it as hard as Kiehl is.
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik refused to say Frazier is the frontrunner during the Tigers appearance at SEC Media Days on Wednesday.
Holding fast to the company line he has kept since the spring, Chizik reiterated several times that the starting quarterback race is still an open competition between Frazier and junior Clint Moseley, the starter for Auburns final six games last year.
Its up for grabs, Chizik said. Obviously, in two-a-days is when thats going to be decided.
Until both quarterbacks return to the practice field -- Chizik sent incoming freshman Zeke Pike home following an arrest for public intoxication earlier this summer, effectively eliminating Pike from the race -- the coaching staff will not know which quarterback has retained offensive Scot Loefflers playbook the best.
But as the summer days march toward fall, Frazier is the player who has continued to impress his teammates, including his top two receivers.
Both Blake and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who is expected to play an increased role in the passing game this season, gave Frazier rave reviews for his leadership in Wednesdays SEC Media Days appearance.
Kiehl has taken that leadership role, Lutzenkirchen said. Last year as a freshman, trying to lead the offense, he wasnt comfortable doing that. Now he sees it as an opportunity.
Coming off of an 8-5 season, all eyes will be on Auburns pair of new coordinators -- Loeffler and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder -- as the Tigers try to navigate one of the toughest schedules in the country.
But like most teams in college football, Auburns fate may rest on the right arm, decision-making and leadership of whoever earns the starting job.
By all accounts, Frazier has improved by leaps and bounds in all three areas.
Always quiet, Frazier has spent the summer becoming a more vocal leader, making sure his teammates do the right things on the practice field.
As a freshman in Gus Malzahns offense last season, Frazier felt unsure of himself.
Now, the sophomore is taking responsibility for Auburns entire offense.
If something goes wrong, he takes the blame, Lutzenkirchen said. Its the quarterbacks offense, and thats the quarterbacks job.
For the moment, Auburn has no starting quarterback.
Chizik has repeatedly made that clear.
But the Frazier who was unable to run Malzahns entire offense this season is no longer the same player, according to the offensive players who know him best.
Blake has always known Frazier had the arm.
Now, the quarterback seems to have the rest of the qualities needed to win the job.
If I didnt know Kiehl, I wouldnt think he was the same guy, Blake said. Even last year, he was throwing darts, but his progressions and reads have been so much better that its given us new confidence.
Maybe Auburn has a clear leader to win the quarterback job after all.