Spring practice has wrapped up across the SEC, and the top storyline for most teams coming out of it is still the quarterback position. Some teams named a starter in the spring. Others are leaving it open until fall camp begins in August.
This week, we’ll examine five of these open competitions in the conference and debate who we think each team should choose as its starting quarterback.
Next up are the Auburn Tigers:
Edward Aschoff: I have to go with the new kid on the block: John Franklin III. He kind of reminds me of another juco transfer who lit up the quarterback spot for the Tigers a few years ago during his first season as the starter. He’s fast and elusive like that other guy, and feels like the perfect fit for Gus Malzahn’s uptempo, spread offense.
However, Franklin didn’t separate himself enough this spring. Even with all the pretty running around he did, he didn’t run away with the starting job, like many people thought he would. I guess that’s OK, but Auburn isn’t exactly in the spot where it can be patient with this team, especially the offense. There’s heat on the Plains, and this offense has to get out of its rut.
It needs a guy behind center who can add a real rushing element to make this offense tick. Neither Jeremy Johnson nor Sean White could effectively do that last season, leading Auburn to rank 10th in the SEC in total offense (370 ypg). Auburn also ranked 12th in the SEC in passing (173.7). Both of those guys are back, and neither will get this offense going in the direction it needs to go. They just aren’t fits for the offense, like Franklin.
Now, I’m not saying Franklin, who threw for 733 yards and seven touchdowns while rushing for 451 yards and nine scores at East Mississippi Community College last year, will take Auburn to the national championship, like Nick Marshall did, but he’ll help make this offense look like his offense. Remember, that offense averaged 501 yards and 39.5 points per game in 2013 mostly because of the rushing element Marshall brought. The Tigers also averaged 328.3 rushing yards per game that year too, so, yeah.
Greg Ostendorf: Obviously, Auburn would love to find another Marshall at quarterback. And at first glance, Franklin reminds me of Marshall. But what separated Marshall – and the reason I worry about Franklin – was his ability to throw the deep ball. Every time he connected with Sammie Coates, it forced defenses to be honest and not put eight or nine in the box every play.
Because let’s be honest – if you just want a runner back there taking snaps, put in Kerryon Johnson and run the Wildcat.
But I think what this offense needs, and what it sorely lacked last year, was a quarterback who could make timely throws. Everybody forgets that in 2009 when Chris Todd was at quarterback, Auburn finished second in the SEC in total offense. Todd wasn’t exactly fleet of foot, but he didn’t have to be. He was efficient, throwing 22 touchdowns and six interceptions, and even without a dual-threat quarterback, Ben Tate still rushed for more than 1,300 yards.
Looking at the three potential QB options, Johnson might have the best arm. But you can’t trust him mentally. That’s why I’ll take White. I thought he showed a lot of grit when he was pressed into action early in the season. This was a kid who had never played college football before, and in his four SEC games (excluding the Georgia game where he tried to play hurt), he completed nearly 60 percent of his passes and threw for 955 yards.
The bowl game certainly didn’t help his case much, but I thought White bounced back nicely this spring. He showed in the spring game that he’s the best pure passer of the three quarterbacks, and that’s what Auburn needs right now.