Photo by Jason Caldwell

Gus Malzahn Says He Is Not Ready to Name Auburn's Starting Quarterback

Following Auburn's second preseason scrimmage, the head coach talks about the quarterback competition and his football team.

Auburn, Ala.--With scrimmage two in the books Gus Malzahn said he is still not ready to make a decision on his starting quarterback as one of the three candidates was held out of the session.

“I’m not ready to go there yet,” Auburn's head coach said when asked if he is ready to name a starter at quarterback. “We’re going to get to the end of fall camp, kind of re-evaluate everything, then we’ll talk. I’m not ready to look that far ahead yet.”

The final “camp” practice is scheduled for Monday, the day before fall semester classes begin.

Senior Jeremy Johnson, who has a swollen right thumb that he hurt when his hand hit a helmet in Wednesday’s practice, watched the action on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Johnson opened 2016 as the starter and Sean White finished the season at the top of the depth chart.

It wasn’t a big day for either White or fellow quarterback John Franklin as well as the offense in general as the defense again showed it is ahead of the offense with three weeks to go before the season opener vs. Clemson. Neither quarterback was able to lead the offense on long scoring drives. 

“Overall, I felt like it was a solid day from a practice standpoint,” Malzahn said. “We did scrimmage. Our ones did a lot of situational scrimmage things--backed up, overtime period, plus-50 period. Our twos and threes, at the end of that, did a lot more as far as just moving the football, playing football.

“We're still kind of in evaluation mode of those guys and just trying to develop depth,” the coach said. “There was some ones that continued to go through the scrimmage as far as that goes.

“We did some special teams in the middle. We did kickoff, kickoff return--got some good reps there. We are just trying to figure out specifically which young guys will have a chance to help us out on special teams.

“During the scrimmage, we did have field goals,” he said. “In the middle of the scrimmage we did have punt. We started out the practice with some live field goals to figure out up front and we also went after the kicks. Overall, I thought it was a solid day.”

Commenting on how he used Franklin and White at quarterback as they were again off-limits for contact, Malzahn said, "It was equal as far as the old guys. Jeremy, we did hold him out but it wasn't anything that was major. We just wanted to get more information on those two. Don't read anything in-between that. That's just what we chose to do. Woody (Barrett) got the majority of the reps with the threes, some twos. He went live again. He's a running-type threat and we want to make sure we have the information as far as that goes." Barrett is the team's other scholarship quarterback. The true freshman enrolled at Auburn this summer.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Woody Barrett is 6-2, 238 pounds from Winter Garden, Fla., where he was Florida Class 8A Player of the Year as a senior at West Orange High.

The head coach said there was nothing “major”?injury-wise although senior Tony Stevens was taken off the field to check his knee. He later returned to Jordan-Hare Stadium with a slight limp.

The Tigers scrimmaged without redshirt freshman cornerback Jamel Dean, who is expected to miss the season due to a knee injury suffered in practice this week. He was in a battle for a starting spot with Javaris Davis, who is also a redshirt freshman.

Senior Josh Holsey is getting a look at cornerback, a position he has started at as well as safety. Holsey missed the 2015 season with an ACL injury.

Asked about Franklin, a juco transfer who participated in spring training, Malzahn said, “I thought he did some good things. It’s just a matter of him getting more comfortable. You can see him getting more and more comfortable. We’re trying to get more things at him, but you’re seeing him get more comfortable.

“In the spring, he had kind of happy feet sometimes and was unsure of some things. Fall camp, you’ve seen him settle in. Every practice, you see him improving. My deal with him is protecting the football. But it’s important to him.

“It’s a really good battle right now,” Malzahn said. “It’s a really good battle. This is not coach-speak when I say that. We have three guys and they are battling their guts out. They have all got their sleeves rolled up, there’s nobody conceding anything. It’s been good and it’s been healthy.”

Malzahn said he has not decided yet if the Tigers will have another scrimmage this preseason. “I would like to go back and get with our coordinators and our coaches and kind of see where we’re at and see if we have enough information. If we need another scrimmage, we definitely will, but we’ll see once we get more information.”


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