True freshman quarterback Bo Nix remains the starter as No. 8 Auburn hosts Kent State on Saturday night, but backup Joey Gatewood is expected to have a significant role as the Tigers tune up for conference play next week.
Gatewood relieved Nix in the fourth quarter of last week's win over Tulane. Although he threw only one pass for an incompletion, he was instrumental in leading a ground game that ate up precious time as Auburn closed out a 24-6 win to move to 2-0.
At 6-foot-5, 233 pounds, Gatewood is a bear to bring down and reminded onlookers of former Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton because of his powerful running style. The redshirt freshman netted only 21 yards on six carries, but he had a 14-yard run on third-and-12 on Auburn's final drive.
"You can see he is an explosive guy," Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said. "I think that is the No. 1 thing, and we will have a role for him each game. We will see how much that is each game, but he presents a different element, there's no doubt about that."
Nix was 19 of 37 for 207 yards and a touchdown in the win, making him 32 of 68 for 384 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions, this season.
Wide receiver Seth Williams, who made the game-winning touchdown catch in the opening come-from-behind win over Oregon, is out this week, Malzahn said. Williams sustained a shoulder injury while making a catch against Tulane.
"I think it's kind of a day-to-day deal as far as that goes," Malzahn said.
Kent State (1-1) also could carve out roles for two quarterbacks.
Woody Barrett was expected to handle the job after starting all 12 game for the Golden Flashes last year after beginning his career at -- of all places -- Auburn. Barrett left the Tigers after a redshirt season and played a year of junior college ball before going to Kent State.
But coach Sean Lewis went with junior Dustin Crum in last week's 26-23 overtime victory over FCS opponent Kennesaw State. Crum completed 17 of 23 passes for 192 yards and a one touchdown.
Lewis remained coy about who would start against the Tigers.
"We've got two really good quarterbacks," Lewis told the Kent (Ohio) Record-Courier. "We're going to play them both, and we're going to find a way to win by playing them both."
Malzahn said he expects Crum and Barrett to play and had high praise for his former quarterback.
"He's a fine young man," Malzahn said of Barrett. "He was a joy to coach and to recruit. We root for him all but this one. He's a quality person and a quality player."
Of more immediate concern is the fumbling problem of running back JaTarvious Whitlow, who fumbled three times against Tulane, losing two.
"I wasn't happy," Malzahn said. "I think we had four or five balls on the ground, and really that is unacceptable."