Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Auburn Quarterback Thoughts, Eli Stove, And A Name At Cornerback

Thoughts on the quarterback race in the preseason, freshman wide receiver Elijah Stove and why Stephen Roberts could hold the key to Auburn's secondary.

Sean White is one of three quarterbacks in the mix to be Auburn's starter.

Quarterback Thoughts

After a pair of scrimmages for the Auburn Tigers there is no doubt plenty of questions still remain for Gus Malzahn’s football team, particularly at the quarterback position where Sean White appears to have the lead with possibly one more scrimmage remaining this week.

While White has been far from flawless, with several turnovers himself on Saturday, overall throughout the preseason he has been the most consistent guy and that is an important part of the equation for him. With John Franklin still struggling with turnovers himself and Jeremy Johnson sitting out scrimmage two with a minor injury, the job looks like White’s to lose heading into week three.

Completing just 58 percent of his passes (83-143) a season ago as a redshirt freshman for 1,166 yards and a touchdown with four interceptions, White was solid but nothing more a season ago. However, when you look a little deeper at the numbers you see a quarterback who actually did some good things and was starting to play well before an injury slowed him considerably.

In his first start White was 20-28 for 188 yards against Mississippi State, but struggled to get the Tigers into the end zone in his first college playing experience. One week later he connected on just 6-10 passes for 108 yards in a win over San Jose State. At Kentucky is when White started to put things together, completing 17-27 passes for 255 yards in the road win with some impressive plays moving around the pocket.

The next week White continued his good play, hitting on 19-32 passes at Arkansas for 254 yards in a four-overtime loss to the Razorbacks. When you factor in that at least eight of his passes were dropped the numbers should have been much better. Not only did Auburn lose the game, but White was injured in the process of the overtime periods and was never the same from that point forward the rest of the season.

In his first four games he completed 62-97 passes (64 percent) for 805 yards. Trying to play at much less than full speed the rest of the year, White completed just 21-46 passes down the stretch and wasn’t the same player because of a lack of mobility because of knee and foot problems.

If White is the guy Auburn won’t have a big threat at the position as a runner, but he can do enough to get a first down here or there and keep a defense honest. The biggest thing is he would be a guy who has feel in the pocket and is tough.

More of a passer, Auburn will probably need to throw more early with White and use the pass more to set up the run. It’s something the Tigers haven’t done much of lately, but it was a staple of Malzahn’s offense at both Tulsa and Arkansas State. If White is the guy it will allow Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee to tailor the offense to his strengths in the coming weeks, something that should help him and the offense perform better and build some confidence before facing No. 2 Clemson in the season opener.

I’m not closing the door on either Franklin or Johnson because I think both will play a role for the Tigers this year, but nothing has changed in my opinion that White is the guy who will get the first call for Auburn. After that it’s anybody’s guess as to what happens at the position, but if White plays well it’s all for naught.

 

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The Stove Is Warming UP

While Nate Craig and Kyle Davis got more pub from Auburn’s star-studded freshman class at wide receiver, the guy who has made the most noise to this point is Elijah Stove from Niceville, Fla. Always a talented wide receiver with very good quickness and explosion, the question surrounding Stove was going to be his size and physicality. So far he’s answered both questions by showing he has a good chance to play early.

One of the things he brings to the table that Auburn is looking for is a home run threat at the position. With good speed, Stove can stretch the field and has the skills to make plays with the ball in the air. It will be a surprise if he isn’t one of the true freshmen that sees the field early against Clemson when Auburn is on offense.

 

Roberts May Be The Key

With the injury to cornerback Jamel Dean and knee surgery planned on Monday, Auburn’s already thin cornerback position took a big hit when he went down. While Javaris Davis is expected to be the starter opposite Carlton Davis, something that may have been the case even with Dean healthy, behind him is a whole lot of uncertainty.

The good news is that Josh Holsey looks to be full speed, which is big because of the experience he brings to the position. Capable of playing cornerback and the nickel cornerback spot, Holsey should be able to help provide key depth if he doesn't start. Behind him, however, is a true freshman, John Broussard, and former walk-on Mike Sherwood with Jeremiah Dinson out for the season recovering from injuries suffered last season.

That is where Stephen Roberts could be added to the equation. A former cornerback turned safety, the junior has the skills to help out right away for the Tigers and may be the best option should Coach Wesley McGriff need another body at cornerback. With Nick Ruffin and Tray Matthews at safety and Markell Boston stepping up his play, Roberts could be one of the answers at cornerback down the road.

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