Jarrett Stidham (© Student Sports)

Gus Malzahn Wants Quick Evaluation On Quarterbacks In Spring Training

Gus Malzahn talks about his quarterback situation as the Tigers begin spring drills.

Auburn, Ala.--Gus Malzahn said on Tuesday as the Auburn football team opens spring practice that one of the priorities is to focus on the signal callers.

Chip Lindsey, the new offensive coordinator, is also the QB coach.

“Starting out, there are five quarterbacks and that is going to be the challenge early to make sure to give all those guys reps so Chip can properly evaluate those guys,” Malzahn said. “Today, we have got 20 minutes of seven-on-seven and we have 10 minutes of one-on-one. That will be the first two days really.

“It will give him a good chance to evaluate those guys,” the head coach noted. “Obviously, you can’t go through spring with five quarterbacks. You have got to narrow things down, and I know that will be part of his plan. Starting out, a lot of those guys will get an opportunity, which I think is a good thing. I know he's excited to work with all the guys.

“I would say it is probably a little more accelerated pace to evaluate the quarterbacks,” Malzahn said. “The goal is after the first week that Chip will have a good idea of at least their talent and we're they are at from an experience or mental standpoint so he can make some decisions to start repping just a handful of guys instead of five. That is by design. At the same time he is coming into this thing new and he wants to give everybody a chance to compete, to win jobs, That is his approach.”

Two of the quarterbacks are new to the team, transfer Jarrett Stidham from Baylor, who is expected to make a strong push for the starting job, and early high school graduate Malik Willis.

Commenting on what he wants to see from Stidham, Malzahn said, “I think he is like everybody else. To improve, to get a good understanding of the offense, to evaluate him, but that goes for everybody out there. He just happens to be a new quarterback, but all the guys, we want to see what they can do and evaluate them and get a good understanding of the offense or the defense.”

The returning starter, Sean White, is not expected to do much in spring drills as he recovers from a broken bone in his arm.

“We are going to see,” Malzahn said on what White will do in spring drills. “He has done a few things with the trainers, and he has tried to throw some things. We are going to make sure we are smart.

“The thing about Sean, is we have a lot of information about him and he is a veteran guy. We are going to make sure he is healthy before we get rolling. He will stay right there with Chip and we will make sure that he doesn’t miss anything. He will be in all of the meetings and all that.”

Malzahn didn’t rule out the possibility that senior John Franklin will change positions this spring.

“He is going to start out at quarterback and he will get reps today and tomorrow at quarterback, along with the other four guys, and then Sean will just kind of be watching and making sure he doesn’t get behind with anything," the coach said. "And Chip, in time, he will narrow it down.

“He doesn’t really have a timetable right now, but obviously he knows you can’t get through spring with five quarterbacks so in the time that he feels comfortable and confident, that is when he will narrow things down.

“John is open to helping the team with whatever,” Malzahn added. “We just felt strongly that he start out and try to win the job at quarterback so that’s what we will do.”

Woody Barrett showed progress in bowl practices at the end of his freshman redshirt season, Malzahn noted, and he will get a serious look at quarterback. Jeremy Johnson, who finished the season at the position after White was hurt in the Sugar Bowl, was a senior last season.

“Woody, you can see his body starting to develop," Malzahn said. "He had a good offseason up to this point, and I know he’s excited. Any time you are a highly recruited guy and you redshirt, it takes a little bit to get back in the flow, but he knows he’s competing now and you can see a difference in him. He did a good job specifically in bowl prep when we scrimmaged and all that so I know he’s excited. He has worked really hard up to this point, and I know Chip is ready to see what he can do, too.”

Asked if the Tigers will be ready to name a starting QB at the end of spring practice, Malzahn said, “I doubt that. I doubt that very seriously, but at the same time Chip will have a recommendation and we will go from there.”

Asked if the Tigers will wait until August to pick a starter to gave White a chance to win the job, Malzahn said, “Obviously, we want to make sure that all positions we put the best player out there so there’s no timetable as far as naming, really any position or quarterback, but we are sensitive to the fact that Sean is going to have a hard time going through spring. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

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