Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Auburn Spring Football Thoughts

Jason Caldwell writes about the Auburn football Tigers as they head into the second half of spring football drills.

DeShaun Davis (above) is making a push for playing time.

Davis Taking Advantage Of His Opportunity

Since arriving on the Auburn campus after dealing with a knee injury as a high school senior, linebacker DeShaun Davis has been a guy behind the scenes for the Tigers. Spending his freshman season redshirting while getting back to full speed, Davis only played a handful of snaps last season as he couldn’t get the attention of Will Muschamp at the position.

Enter new linebacker coach Travis Williams. Searching for the right guys at the position to go along with junior Tre Williams, the former All-SEC linebacker wanted to give everyone a shot this spring to show what they could do. A smart and instinctive player before his injury at Vigor High in Prichard, Davis has continued that this spring in his first real shot to play at Auburn.

The results have gone very well so far. With a big scrimmage performance on Saturday that included a pick-six, a fumble recovery, several big hits and even a tackle on special teams, Davis has put his name into the mix for significant playing time with his performance on the field. With his knowledge of the defense he could be one of the guys to hold down the middle and allow Tre Williams to move around more and showcase his athleticism.


Running Back Battle

With Kerryon Johnson out this spring after having shoulder surgery and true freshman Malik Miller just getting his feet wet after graduating high school early, it has left much of the attention at the position to senior Jovon Robinson and junior Roc Thomas. So far both have shown they are prepared to do what it takes to take their games to the next level.

A player who improved throughout his first season on the Plains, Robinson is in much better shape physically and mentally heading this spring. Always a guy who has had an inner drive to be the best, Robinson learned a lot last fall while trying to become Auburn’s No. 1 back and that should serve him well in the battle with Thomas for the starting job.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jovon Robinson is back after being named the MVP of Auburn's bowl victory vs. Memphis.

Also learning a lot about himself and how to approach the position at this level, at 204 pounds Thomas is bigger and stronger this spring and that is probably the thing that he needed most to help him become the player many expected when he arrived from Oxford High School. Struggling with injuries each of his first two years, Thomas should be able to take more contact now and trusting himself to run through tackles means less spinning and dodging, which has in part contributed to some of his ankle injuries in the past.

No matter what happens both should be runners who Tim Horton can count on this fall. That is important with life in the Southeastern Conference a rough one for running backs. If Auburn has a productive offensive season in 2016 there’s a good chance one or both will be a big reason why.


Live And In Color

Saturday the Auburn quarterbacks went live in a scrimmage for the first time since 2013 when Nick Marshall eventually won the starting job. While each of the quarterbacks had their moments you can bet it was just the first in what should be many steps that lead Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee to their starting quarterback.

Last year at this time Jeremy Johnson and Sean White were battling for the job and despite White performing well, it was an open and shut case that Johnson was going to be the starter because of his previous experience and the way he had played in his limited action his first two years. I don’t expect that quick of a decision this time around.

With junior college transfer John Franklin getting the first scrimmage action of his short Auburn career on Saturday, the coaches at least have a starting point for his play now while they have got a good book on both Johnson and White. As the defense moves away more from basic looks and starts to throw different things at the quarterbacks, that is when there will likely be separation in the QB competition.

That may not happen until they get into fall practice and at this point there is no reason to rush the decision. With five months left until they have to get ready for a football game that is a lot of time for the quarterbacks to improve their games and get even more comfortable with the pieces around them. Making the right choice, no matter the timetable, is the most important thing at the most important position on the team.

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