AUBURN, Alabama — Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said safety Demetruce McNeal will be back in the mix to retain his starting position for next season after clearing up off-the-field issues.
McNeal missed the last five spring practices, including the A-Day game. Malzahn said Wednesday that whatever kept McNeal off the field was "between me and him" but that it's now taken care of.
He didn't list McNeal among the top three players on a post-spring depth chart released Wednesday, but he is the only one at that position with significant experience.
"We took care of all the off-the-field issues that we had, so he is going to be in the mix," Malzahn said. "I didn't put him in the top two right now, but he'll have a chance in the fall. He's a guy that's played before, and he'll have a chance to get back on the field."
McNeal is a 20-game starter the past two seasons and finished second on the team with 90 tackles last season. He had an up-and-down season under then-defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. McNeal didn't have a tackle in the last two games, but reached double digits six times and racked up 18 stops against Mississippi State.
Josh Holsey, who moved from cornerback to safety in the last week of the spring, was listed atop the depth chart.
Malzahn emphasized his depth chart is a work in progress and said that every position is "wide open" going into preseason camp.
That certainly includes quarterback, where he said Jonathan Wallace and Kiehl Frazier remain in "a dead heat" after spring.
Junior college transfer Nick Marshall and perhaps freshman Jeremy Johnson appear to have legitimate shots to win the job in camp while freshman Jason Smith is also expected to at least start out at the position. Wallace and Frazier both started games last season but neither managed to jump-start a sputtering offense.
They drew mixed reviews from Malzahn during the spring, when he started implementing his fast-paced offense.
Malzahn emphasized the importance of those new quarterbacks spending the summer in Auburn learning the system and developing timing with the receivers.
"The earlier the better if you want to have a chance to compete for the job," the coach said. "It's tough for somebody to show up in August and win the job because you don't know your receivers and the things with that. Both quarterbacks, and really all three, are scheduled to be here as early as possible."