Chandler Cox (above) takes a handoff from quarterback John Franklin at Saturday's practice.
Auburn, Ala.--The quarterback competition continues at Auburn and will move into phase two on Sunday when the football Tigers have their first full pads practice of the preseason.
Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Rhett Lashlee said the returning starter, sophomore Sean White, senior Jeremy Johnson and junior college transfer John Franklin are getting equal opportunities in practice to emerge at the top of the depth chart.
Asked to assess the competition on Saturday evening following a 2 1/2-hour workout in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets, Lashlee said, “Four days in it is way too early to call.”
Lashlee said the goal is to put each of his quarterbacks “as close as they can get to game-like situations.” That likely means that the first scrimmage of preseason, which is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, will feature the quarterbacks being “live.” That means they are not off-limits to tackling as is normally the case in practices.
“From a quarterback standpoint, some good and some bad,” Lashlee said of what he has seen so far in practice. “It is hard when you are cycling all three trying to do it equally in terms of anybody getting a lot of continual reps to get a great evaluation. The scrimmage will really help us with that.
“All three have done a nice job making plays, but all three have missed some plays so as a whole we are just looking for the consistency of performance we need to take advantage to make explosive plays,”?he added.
Sean White (13) is shown at Saturday's practice.
The offensive coordinator said the coaching staff’s goal is to pick the quarterback who gives the team the best chance to win and make the decision as soon as possible.
Asked about his time-line for choosing the No. 1 quarterback, Lashlee said, “As quick as possible is the best-case scenario for us. I think it's best for that individual and really all of them. I think it is best for our team, but getting it right is also more important than getting it done fast.
“Tomorrow (Sunday) will be the first day in full pads, get a day off (Monday) and then we will have a really good scrimmage. Whether or not we know after that, I don’t know, but we will probably have a pretty decent idea. Then we will just kind of evaluate where we are at after that scrimmage.”
The Auburn coaches have the most information on Johnson, a senior, and on White, a redshirt sophomore. Franklin joined the team in January as a juco transfer and was impressive with his arm strength and quickness in spring drills, but wasn’t as consistent throwing the ball as he needed to be and at times was turnover-prone.
“He has not had as many turnovers, but then again last (spring) I don’t really know how many he had in a practice setting,” Lashlee said. “It was when we went live in the scrimmage setting. That is why the scrimmage is probably the best test because guys aren’t just in there for four plays and out, four plays and out. They are getting drives and there are results after everything. It is a result-driven game so are we scoring points, are we getting first downs, are we moving it on third down, turning it over? He has done a better job of protecting the football so far.”
On Franklin’s development, Lashlee said, “There are certain things he has gotten better at. We will know more after the scrimmage.”
The offensive coordinator was asked if Franklin doesn’t win the starting job, could he still get playing time. “Absolutely. Nothing is off the table. For us the big emphasis is we’ve got to play with better tempo. And part of that is playing with better tempo, but the other part is obviously converting and staying on the field and getting some momentum going.
“We’ve got to play with good tempo, and the next thing is we’ve got to generate explosive plays. That’s where we really struggled last year, and it’s hard to score a lot of points in this league if you can’t generate explosive plays so we’ll do anything and everything we can to put our guys in positions to allow them to make plays.”
Lashlee said the QB situation could change during the season. “Sometimes that guy is not ready at the beginning of the year. Sometimes they’re ready by week six. You see that with a lot of people a lot of times whether it’s a true freshman or a redshirt freshman. In this case with John, he’s also like a true freshman. Hey, I know he’s coming from junior college, but he didn’t play either of his two years at Florida State and he split time last year so he doesn’t have a lot of college snaps under his belt.”
Johnson went into the 2015 season with high expectations as the starting quarterback, but struggled and lost the No. 1 spot to White.
“He has gone through the storm,”?Lashlee said. “I think everybody gets that. He had a lot of adversity. It was a rough year for him and others, but the very impressive thing a lot of times young men that age they transfer, they quit, they leave, they whatever. He pushed through it. You've got to be extremely proud of him for that.
“I have no idea what is going to happen moving forward. We are going to play the best guy. There is no kind of past baggage that will factor in. The best guy is going to play. I am proud he's pushed through that and been a great teammate and Auburn man and said' I'm going to graduate from Auburn, I love Auburn. I want to help this team win in whatever capacity that is.”
The Tigers have been busy installing the offense during their first week back on the practice field. Lashlee said, “We have thrown a lot at the guys, maybe...I don’t know...more than we ever have in the first four days. We are really trying to get it all in now so we can have some time to evaluate guys, especially the young guys--how they pick everything up.”
In other news and notes:
*Rudy Ford said that fellow senior Josh Holsey is off to a good start to preseason drills after missing spring practice while recovering from ACL surgery.
“He has been really great,” Ford said. “He’s got a lot of leadership skills and steps in at different roles. He has been able to step in and play a little nickel, corner. They move him around to different spots and he knows the game really well.”
Stanton Truitt works on a kickoff return at Saturday's practice.
*Defensive tackle Montravius Adams said that he is trying to be a leader for his senior season. “Right now, it is actually going pretty good. I feel like the guys listen to me. I feel like we are going in positive directions”
Adams, who represented Auburn at SEC Media Days, said, “Everybody is trying to get better and everybody is taking positive steps in the right direction. I am just looking forward to what we can be.”