Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Auburn's Quarterback Race Heating Up, Young D-Linemen Are Impressive

Taking a look at the quarterback race and also several impressive freshmen defensive linemen are the themes of this edition of Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning Quarterback column.

QB Race Kicks Into High Gear

I’m not sure Auburn's coaches are any closer to naming a quarterback five practices in than they were on opening day of practice, but that will change on Tuesday when the Tigers hit the field for the first scrimmage of this preseason.

So far both Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee have talked about how all three quarterbacks in the competition have improved since the spring, and that’s a solid start to having improved play at the position this fall.

Next up is trying to find the guy who can take the reins and lead the team. Malzahn said on Sunday that starts with having the guys compete in a scrimmage situation because it shows the coaches things they can’t see in a regular practice.

“You see who has improved, who the team has gravitated too as far as believing in, who makes plays and there’s a lot of different things other than that,” Malzahn said. “We are hoping through this competition we can figure out who our quarterback is. All three of them can run our offense, our whole offense. That’s the positive.”

For several weeks leading up to the start of practice I thought that Sean White would be the guy to start the season opener for Auburn against Clemson, but I could see John Franklin getting some reps and eventually winning the job later in the season.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Sean White has done nothing to hurt his chances to be the starter this preseason

Those are still my thoughts, but I do believe that Franklin has done what he needed to do so far to make a run at the starting position. First and foremost, he has to avoid turning the ball over. So far he’s protected the football well and made some plays, but he has to continue that on Tuesday in what could be a huge scrimmage for his chances of seeing a lot of playing time this fall.

That leads us to Jeremy Johnson. He may not win the starting job, but there is no question that the senior has impressed his teammates with his work ethic and the way he’s responded since losing the job last season. I don’t know when it will be, it could be in the opener or it could come later in the season, but somewhere along the way I think Johnson is going to make a big play for this team when he gets his opportunity.

 

Freshmen D-Lineman Making An Impact

Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has been around the game of football for a long time and coached a lot of good players along the way so when he says something like he did recently about a pair of freshmen defensive lineman you take notice.

“I will say this, we've got a long way to go and he's young, but Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson, two have two guys like that in the same class is rare,” Steele said. “That's just a fact. I could tell you otherwise or try to sugarcoat it or try to mask it like, 'They're not this, we've got a long way,' but the truth is those guys are pretty talented. The big thing about them, they're both very emotionally mature and that's the biggest separating factor with freshmen. There are guys that are really physical specimens, there are guys that pick it up quick, but just the wear and tear of the daily grind gets to them emotionally. It doesn't faze those guys.”

We already had a glimpse of what Davidson could do in the spring, but he didn’t sit still on that work. Instead he worked harder over the summer and came back looking even better for camp. For Brown it was a much different approach. Without the head start of a spring practice to build on Brown needed to come in and catch the eye of the coaches as quickly as possible this preseason.

It’s safe to say that has been the case.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Derrick Brown is an imposing figure.

With guys like Montravius Adams, Dontavius Russell, Devaroe Lawrence and Maurice Swain at defensive tackle, Auburn is in the fortunate position of not having to count on Brown, but that doesn’t mean he won’t play. More than one time this week I’ve heard the word “special” to describe the 6-5, 330-pounder. When you combine his size and rare athleticism, the future is very bright for the massive tackle.

Even though he won’t likely be called on to play this year because of the depth at defensive end, Nick Coe’s athleticism has been impressive to see as well. While he’s still got a ways to go in terms of technique, Coe’s physical skills jump out at you on the field. In great condition, Coe can run and cover ground in a hurry. As he continues to improve he’ll be a guy to watch.

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