Photo by Jason Caldwell

Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: QB Thoughts, Defense Stepping Up, Diamond Notes

Thoughts on spring football for the Auburn Tigers, baseball struggles, big sweep for Auburn softball.

Marlon Davidson (above) is off to a good start as a college football player.

Franklin Getting A Long Look

It’s still very early in the race to find Auburn's starting quarterback, but right now junior college transfer John Franklin is getting a whole lot of work from the coaches to find out just what they have in the speedster from South Florida.

Marlon Davidson (above) is off to a good start as a college football player.

Because they have seen both Jeremy Johnson and Sean White in game action the coaches have given Franklin more reps against live action and that is probably the best plan of action for the Tigers.

Coming in with very little college game experience at the quarterback position, Franklin has shown he has the talent to get the job done, but it takes more than just speed and a strong arm to be successful. While he has been a big-play threat running the ball his passing has been very spotty so far. The good news for Gus Malzahn and his offensive coordinator, Rhett Lashlee, is that they have seen this play before with Nick Marshall, but they had even less time to get him ready to play a season.

With still almost five months until the Tigers play a game I expect Franklin to continue to improve his knowledge of the offense and also his skill set as a quarterback. Whether or not that’s enough to earn him the starting job remains to be seen, but I don’t think there’s any question he’s going to have every opportunity to be on the field when Auburn opens against Clemson.


Defense Continues To Take Steps Forward

There is no question that the shuffling on the line and at quarterback has kept the offense from hitting its stride so far this spring, but part of the reason for that has been the play of the defense. Even with experienced linemen Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Devaroe Lawrence getting limited reps, the front four was impressive again on Saturday and many of the young guys were the reason why.

Stepping up his play, Byron Cowart continues to show that he is going to be a guy Auburn can depend on in the fall and that is a big plus for the group. Perhaps the most interesting development for the group this spring has been the play of true freshman Marlon Davidson. He has pushed his way onto the first team already and just has a different vibe about him even though he should still be in high school right now.

Always a hard worker, Davidson has shown that he understands the game and what it takes to be successful on this level. Something else he has done is take on the role of a recruiter for Auburn, talking to just about every prospect who comes through this spring. It’s still very, very early, but Davidson has the look of a guy that Auburn can build around for years to come.


Baseball Tigers Stumbling

Going 2-2 this week with a Tuesday night win over Alabama and one win against LSU, Auburn missed a golden opportunity to get back in the SEC race over the weekend. This LSU team was ripe for the picking and is one that will have to get much better to finish in the top half of the league based on what they showed against Auburn.

For Butch Thompson’s club the pitching hasn’t been as bad as the numbers show because struggles on defense have really hurt them time and time again. With a team that has little margin for error that has made it extremely difficult to make it through nine innings without shooting itself in the foot.

Right now Auburn is 13-15 overall and just 2-7 in SEC play, but this year the Tigers are just 1-10 in games decided by two runs or less. That shows just how close this team is to getting the job done, but also illustrates the problems they have had this year.


Softball Gets A Huge Road Sweep

On the other end of the spectrum from the baseball team is the softball program, one that has shown the ability to win the close game time and time again. With a record of 33-4 overall and 9-3 in SEC play, Coach Clint Myers is pleased with his team that is coming off a sweep on the road against a ranked Kentucky squad that was tied for first place in the SEC when Auburn arrived in Lexington.

Two of those wins came by just one run, something this team has done a great job with this season. Currently Auburn is 8-1 in games decided by two runs or less, showing you the difference in being able to close out games can have on a season. In 37 games the softball team has just 27 errors, compared to 46 errors in just 28 games for the baseball team.

That in a nutshell is one of the reasons why Myers’ team is in great shape to be in position to be a host for a regional at the end of the year and compete for a return trip to the College World Series.

On To The NCAA Championships

Congrats are in order for Coach Jeff Graba and Auburn gymnastics after the Tigers tied for the regional title and advanced for the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive season, the first time that's ever happened in school history. It's just the fifth time for Auburn to make it this far with two of those coming in Graba's six years heading up the program. 

A season ago Auburn finished in the top six at the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1993 and it capped a season that earned Graba his third SEC Coach of the Year award. This year he may have done his best job with the Tigers after injuries forced several freshmen into the rotation, but they had an anchor in senior Caitlin Atkinson. A clutch performer for Auburn and the SEC Gymnast of the Year, Atkinson is looking to finish her career by helping Auburn to even bigger heights in her final meet with the Tigers.

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