Auburn, Ala.--This spring one of the focal points for Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers is finding the right quarterback to help the offense turn things around following a difficult 2015 season. Averaging just 27.5 points per game last year and only 370 yards of total offense, the Tigers are hoping to find a spark this spring and one of the guys getting a long look is speedster John Franklin.
While Jeremy Johnson did some good things on the ground with six touchdowns it was otherwise a tough season in that regard for Auburn’s quarterback duo of Johnson and Sean White as they combined to rush for just 172 yards on 77 carries, a far cry from what Nick Marshall delivered the previous two seasons. When you consider that 65 of those yards came on one carry late in a loss to LSU, it makes the numbers stand out even more.
Even though Tiger fans have seen Malzahn’s offense be successful without a true running threat at quarterback, there is no doubt that that added dimension has pushed the Tigers to a different level in past years.
That’s something that Franklin can do and do well because of his legitimate track speed. Showing the ability to get to the edge and turn the corner, Franklin has impressed his teammates with his quickness running the football, but that’s not all there is to his game. Still developing as a passer, Franklin has done a solid job of showing his coaches and teammates that he’s serious about being a leader and that sticks out to Malzahn early in Franklin’s first spring with the team.
“I’ve been impressed with his approach,” Malzahn said. “He wants to be coached. His attention to detail, he’s real hard on himself. He throws the ball well we are just trying to get his timing down on the base offense as far the run game, as far as the pass game, but he’s naturally fast. When he takes off running, you know he’s got the wow factor.
“He can really run. He’s competing and it’s been good for all the quarterbacks. There’s a lot of good competition right now, but I will say the other two that played last year are quite a bit above where they were at the end of last season. Competition has a way of bringing out the best in everyone.”
Jeremy Johnson and Sean White both have starting experience.
That’s what Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee are looking for with Johnson, White and redshirt freshman Tyler Queen all competing for the job along with Franklin. With Queen’s comeback from Tommy John surgery going well he’s a guy that should continue to improve, but the time may be now for the two experienced players. Malzahn said both have shown some good things as well this spring and have progressed from last season.
“Both of those guys have had times that they've made 'wow' plays,” Malzahn said. “They're veteran guys. They can make plays even when the system breaks down. I've seen it a few times already. I would say they're much improved from where they were last year, but, of course, that's normal for guys who have had experience for a year and they have an offseason and come back.”
When Auburn returns from spring break next week the Tigers will have 10 days to get better as a team. That’s also 10 more days for the quarterbacks to put in work in the hopes of getting a leg up on the job heading into the summer.
Even though there is still a whole lot left for him to prove, Franklin has already shown some good things in his short time said teammate Chandler Cox and he’s looking forward to seeing if that continues.
“He's fast,” Cox said. “I was watching tape in the film room, I was like, 'Wow, he's quick.' That's something that every team needs back there, really. That's something we also need, some speed. He has it. I know Sean and Jeremy are pretty fast, too.
“He's fast, and he's a good kid, too, outside of football. That's what impressed me, really. Some of these guys come in and don't really act too well outside of football, but him, he's a good person outside of football. That's what I really like about him.”