In years past, preseason scrimmages have gone a long way in determining the outcome of Auburn’s quarterback competition.
In 2013, Nick Marshall separated himself when the non-contact jerseys were removed from the quarterbacks in fall scrimmages. Last season, it was Jeremy Johnson who stood out and in spring scrimmages and quickly claimed the starting job.
Auburn held its first scrimmage on Saturday morning, marking the first time the quarterbacks have gone live in the team’s first eight spring practices.
“We learned a lot, so we’re hoping [the scrimmage provides separation],” said Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. “After we see the film, it’d be great to have a really good feel for the guys. Like I said, we’ll learn more today from a quarterback standpoint than we did the first seven practices.”
The scrimmage was closed to media, but teammates said newcomer John Franklin III and Johnson made the biggest plays at the quarterback position.
Franklin III, known as a dual-threat quarterback, broke off a run of about 70 yards, according to running back Jovon Robinson.
Though he didn’t score on the play, Robinson said the JUCO transfer showed his speed and shiftiness.
“That’s a quick person, man,” Robinson said. “When you can move laterally as quick as he can, you can do special things on the field. You saw that today.”
Johnson, who is trying to regain his starting spot after struggling early last season, threw a 75-yard touchdown to Roc Thomas, according to the junior running back.
Sean White, who started six games last season, also received first-team snaps in the scrimmage, which Malzahn said he tried to divide evenly between the three competitors.
“We tried to give every quarterback equal reps with the ones and then we got just about equal with the twos,” Malzahn said. “John Franklin got quite a bit of work, but that was by design just because we didn't know as much about him as we do the other guys. It was good to see the quarterbacks. There were some designed quarterback runs, too. We wanted to see how they reacted.”
The only quarterback who didn’t receive first-team reps was Tyler Queen, who is on a “pitch count” this spring after undergoing Tommy John surgery early last season.
Defensive back Jamel Dean said the quarterbacks did not throw any interceptions in the scrimmage, an encouraging sign after the Tigers tossed 12 picks a year ago. Franklin III did, however, fumble the ball on a zone-read exchange, according to Malzahn.
The fourth-year coach didn’t specify if the quarterbacks would go live again in practice this spring
Though Malzahn did not acknowledge any major change in the quarterback situation going forward, he and the offensive coaching staff have now seen the signal-callers in a live situation, something that has been a determining factor in past quarterback competitions under Malzahn.
“It's very good to evaluate those guys in a live situation and it's very good for our defense to have a quarterback go live. You can learn a lot about the pass rushing and everything that goes with that,” Malzahn said. “I thought all three guys, Jeremy, John and Sean got some good work. … Overall, I thought it was a pretty productive day. We got some good information moving forward.”