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Auburn quarterback and early enrollee Bo Nix looks for running room during last month's A-Day game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn opted for youth and talent in its four-man quarterback competition.

After 15 spring practices and several staff meetings, coach Gus Malzahn is moving forward with redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood and early enrollee Bo Nix over junior Malik Willis and redshirt freshman Cord Sandberg. Malzahn made the announcement this week at one of Auburn's "Ambush Tour" spring speaking events in Dothan, Alabama.

"We left spring ball with Joey Gatewood and Bo Nix really 1 and 1A," Malzahn told reporters at the gathering. "One of those two guys will be our starting quarterback in our first game. They'll compete during the summer and in fall camp, and we'll make a decision."

Auburn's starting quarterback will be greeted with arguably the nation's most demanding schedule, as the Tigers have to face six teams who have appeared among the top 10 in early preseason rankings — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Oregon and Texas A&M. Auburn opens Aug. 31 against Oregon inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The 6-foot-5, 237-pound Gatewood is from St. Augustine, Florida, and was an early enrollee last year. His lone appearance last season occurred late in the 63-14 drubbing of Purdue in the Music City Bowl, where he rushed three times for 28 yards as part of an offense that had no need to throw the ball.

Gatewood, the No. 49 overall prospect nationally in the 2018 recruiting class according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings, went 8-for-12 passing for 130 yards and two touchdowns in last month's A-Day game.

Nix is the son of former Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix (1992-95) and set an Alabama state high-school record by accounting for more than 12,000 total yards during his career at Pinson Valley. The 6-2, 204-pounder led Pinson Valley to consecutive Class 6A state titles and was the nation's No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and No. 33 prospect overall in the most recent recruiting cycle.

At A-Day, Nix went 11-of-17 for 155 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Willis spent the past two seasons as the primary backup to Jarrett Stidham, the recent fourth-round pick of the New England Patriots, and has competed in 15 games for the Tigers. Sandberg is actually the oldest of the bunch at 24, having been drafted as an outfielder into the Philadelphia Phillies organization in 2013, and saw action last September during the 63-9 rout of Alabama State.

George to Tide

Alabama's quarterback competition already includes two Tagovailoas, Mac Jones and Bear Bryant's great-grandson, but that hasn't stopped Jayden George from joining the mix. The son of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback and 1990 top overall draft pick Jeff George is heading to Tuscaloosa as a preferred walk-on member of the 2019 class.

"I can't wait to be part of something special," George posted this week on Twitter.

The 6-3, 205-pounder from Indianapolis threw for 3,100 yards and 42 touchdowns last season while leading Warren Central High School to a state championship.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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