Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers search for the starting quarterback heading into the 2016 season is the top storyline for the Tigers as they near the midway point of spring practice. With returning starters Jeremy Johnson and Sean White in the mix along with junior college transfer John Franklin and redshirt freshman Tyler Queen, Coach Rhett Lashlee said so far it has been a whirlwind as they try to get each guy enough reps while also installing the offense.
“I’ve been pleased so far,” Lashlee said. “We have had seven practices, they have been in orange jerseys the whole time, but I’m pleased with their attitude. Everyone is better than when we started. Jeremy is better. You can tell his attention to detail and hunger to try to get better.
“I think Sean is healthy again, he’s the old Sean that played in the Kentucky and Arkansas game and was playing pretty well. John is picking up the offense fairly well for the pace he’s having to go at with the other guys. I’ve been impressed with that, but until we get out and play a game like we are on Saturday it’s all speculation.”
The most intriguing of the guys at the position is without question Frankin. A speedster that got to campus in January, the 6-1, 185-pounder has impressed his teammates with his quickness running the football and also his leadership skills. Lashlee said learning the offense and taking a leadership role is something he’s done well so far.
“He’s shown so far he’s got a great work ethic,” he noted of his newcomer at the position. “He’s tried to do everything and take advantage of every opportunity he’s had to learn the playbook, learn more about the system, learn the offense and to just improve. I’ve seen positive development there and there’s no question that’s the kind of initiative and leadership we need.”
As for the two veterans, Lashlee said both have improved since last season and that was the goal for both heading into the spring. Last year Johnson completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,054 yards and 10 touchdowns with five interceptions while also added six rushing touchdowns. White was 83-143 (58 percent) for 1,166 yards and one touchdown with four picks.
After his struggles a season ago, Lashlee said he’s been particularly impressed by Johnson and how he’s handled himself on the off the field since that time.
“I’d say, probably most importantly is his body language,” Lashlee said. “I mean, look, let’s call it like it is: He went through something that not a lot of guys his age—that’s about as hard as it gets, you know? He’s a kid, man. No one was more disappointed with how things turned out for him in particular than he was.
“I think it just says a lot about him, how he’s bounced back, how he’s responded, his attitude, his work ethic and his demeanor and the way he is out there, you’d never know. He’s just competing every day and trying to be the best he can be, so I’m really proud of him for that.”
Rounding out the group is Queen. Coming back from Tommy John surgery following last spring, Queen looks good physically but he’s still taking things very slowly said Lashlee.
“He's been able to practice,” Lashlee noted of the redshirt freshman. “He's on a pitch count. He's healthy. I think Dr. Andrews saw him yesterday and I think he's cleared him potentially for full activity and so there's some things he's doing well. I would not say he is where he was last spring yet but he's able to go out and practice and throw every day, which I think is a good thing.
“And so he should be able to do that the rest of the spring. Spring helps because you take a day off in between every day. He should be able to throw all summer and I would suspect by the time we get to fall camp, there shouldn't be any limitations. It's obviously good for him to go out and get some reps.”
With the first scrimmage coming up this Saturday and the quarterbacks on full display, Lashlee said they’ll know much more about position and the rest of the offense following that first big test.
“Guys are working hard, the best thing is everybody is coachable, they are hungry and are buying in,” Lashlee added. “Guys came up with on their own the motto, as I’m sure you all know, of “earn it.” They just come to work and put trust in their coaches. We will know a lot more after Saturday about the quality of where we are at.”