John Franklin (above) is the newcomer in the quarterback competition.
Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football team wrapped up the camp portion of preseason drills on Monday without a starter named at quarterback with less than three weeks before the season opener vs. Clemson, but the head coach said he is not concerned about that.
“I am not ready to name a starter right now,” Gus Malzahn said. “Possibly in the near future that could happen, but we are not ready right now as of the end of fall camp.
“That is not a bad thing at all,” Auburn’s head coach said. “As a matter of fact, it's a real positive thing that we have got a fierce competition going on. Our guys are battling. They are much improved from the spring and that is exciting for me.
The trio competing for the starting spot are Sean White, who finished last season as the starter, along with Jeremy Johnson and juco transfer John Franklin.
Malzahn and his offensive coordinator, Rhett Lashlee, normally narrow the quarterback reps in practice to two players with the starter getting the majority of attention and the third stringer getting little.
“That is definitely the plan,” Malzahn said. “I will take you back to 2013. It was about two weeks, two and a half weeks and we went ahead and went live and that is when Nick (Marshall) won the job. That definitely helped once we narrowed things down. That would definitely be one of our plans.”
Asked if he plans to go live with the contenders at QB this preseason, Malzahn said, “I hope not. I don't think we're in the same situation right now. Matter of fact, I know we are not in the same situation we were in 2013. We have more information. That was the first year we got here. It doesn't look like we will have to do that.
“That was the goal really beforehand. You don't want to have to do that in fall camp. We have put our guys in enough situations going thud (contact without tackling) with defensive linemen around them, how do they handle the pocket, how do they handle protecting the football, how do they handle when thing break down and can they protect the football? We're getting a lot of good information.”
Asked if turnovers by the quarterbacks in Saturday’s scrimmage has prevented the Tigers from making a decision on the starting QB, Malzahn said, “I wouldn't say that. It's just that being 100 percent feel that you get when you name a starter and that the teammates. All three guys are respected by their teammates.
“It's kind of getting to the point now we're starting to narrow some things down,” he said. “We rotated. We gave everybody a chance in the 105 (preseason roster) to show what they can during in fall camp. Now as coaches you kind of catch your breath and get your personnel a little more defined once you start game planning for your first opponent. We will do that. Until I'm 100 percent we will keep letting those guys battle.”
The coach was asked if the Tigers might go with more than one quarterback this year, Malzahn said, “I'm not ready to say that yet. We have always had a Wildcat-type guy and we have always had a starter. I'm not ready to say that quite yet. We are hoping to have the guy.”
Asked about the importance of having more than one quarterback ready to play, “I don’t think you can ever have enough quality depth at the quarterback position if you run your quarterback. The fact that we’ve got three guys that can take a snap and execute a play like we need it executed, I think that’s a positive. Our quarterback has to be more of a runner this year, we’ve talked about that, I don’t care who it is. It’s good that we’ve got that depth right now.”
Johnson has three seasons in the program and White is going into his redshirt sophomore year. Asked if that is a factor in the QB choice, Malzahn said, “I really think from year to year, I don’t care what position, you really have to push that aside and really look to what they have done and how much they have improved. A lot of times, not just quarterback but any position, a guy gets to have more experience and he turns into a complete different player. The past, in a situation like this, I don’t think about it. I’m letting them earn it. That really goes for every position, not just quarterbacks.”
With fall semester classes the Tigers won’t practice again until Wednesday although the original plan was to practice again on Monday night. However, the next session will be on Wednesday when the focus shifts towards preparing for No. 2 ranked Clemson.
“I think we are in a great spot,” Malzahn said. “Today we really worked hard on end-of-the game scenarios offensively and defensively and special teams with all the different situations that we could see during the season just to get a good foundation so we can keep continuing to work as far as that goes.”
In other news and notes:
*Malzahn said that Miami of Ohio transfer Marshall Taylor could be joining the team this week. The coach has not given specifics of why the graduate transfer cornerback has not participated in preseason drills other than to say he is taking care of personal business. “He will hopefully be out there this week,”?the coach said.
Marshall Taylor worked out with his new teammates this summer, but has not been through a formal team practice yet.
With cornerback Jamel Dean out for the season with a knee injury, the Tigers could use the extra depth. Jeremiah Dinson, another cornerback, is also expected to miss the season while rehabbing from injuries.
*The coach thanked the fans who attended the annual fan day event on Sunday. “I really appreciate our fans. It was just a great experience. We had a great turnout. I know our players were very excited afterward to see that many people. It was really good.”
*Senior wide receiver Tony Stevens has yet to practice since hurt his knee on Saturday. “He had a little minor thing,” Malzahn said. “He was out there today. He will be back to practice probably in the next two tothree days but it is nothing that will alter him as far as the first game is concerned.”