Auburn coach Gus Malzahn spent the entire fall dodging questions about the team’s quarterback situation.
When the discussion shifted to the topic at Malzahn’s national signing day press conference, he candidly addressed the issue for the first time in months.
“As far as our quarterbacks are concerned, I’m really looking forward to the spring to let those guys compete,” Malzahn said. “There’s a lot of good options out there, and competition brings out the best in everybody, so I think all those guys are ready to roll their sleeves up and get ready to work.”
Jeremy Johnson and Sean White will enter spring practice in four-way competition with junior college transfer John Franklin III and freshman Woody Barrett.
Never miss a local story.
The two returning quarterbacks experience — they each started six games this past season — doesn’t sound as if it’s going to give either of them a leg up in a competition Malzahn described as “wide-open.”
“We’re going to see who the best guy is, and we’ll go from there,” Malzahn said.
While Barrett has been on Malzahn’s radar for years going back to when the coach first got the head job at Auburn, the team’s offensive struggles led the staff to bring an additional quarterback with experience.
Franklin didn’t start receiving interest from Auburn until late September with the team’s offense stuck in neutral.
Malzahn turned to the junior college ranks where he had success with Nick Marshall to find a similar dual-threat option. The Tigers quickly identified the former Florida State backup who spent a season at East Mississippi Community College.
“John Franklin has got great speed,” Malzahn said. “We think he throws the ball well. He’s familiar with our offense so we’re definitely excited about what he can do.”
Franklin will have a head start on Barrett as one of Auburn’s nine early enrollees. The Florida native has been on campus since the beginning of January with the rest of his new teammates.
“I think he’s fit in very well,” Malzahn said. “He’s a very likable young man. I’ll tell you the thing about our team is they’re very welcoming. The guys that come in, they just embrace them. I think he’s very comfortable and fitting in very well.”
Franklin might have a slight advantage, but Malzahn is equally interested in seeing how Barrett fits into the equation. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder has the perfect skill for Malzahn’s offensive system with an intriguing mix of size and athleticism to the plains.
“We hand picked him,” Malzahn said. “He’s a true dual-threat quarterback. He can run it. He can throw it. He has that leadership ability.”
Malzahn acknowledged it might be a challenge in the fall to split up reps between four quarterbacks equally, but not unprecedented.
“We did that when Nick Marshall won the job in 2013 and I think we went about two weeks non-live and then we felt like we needed to put the ball down and go live and it kind of cleared things up,” Malzahn said. “In the spring I think that’s good. I mean, we’ll let these guys play and I think it will give us some good information before fall camp.”
- Early enrollee strategy a central part of Auburn’s 2016 recruiting class
- VIDEO: Auburn coach Gus Malzahn discusses special 2016 recruiting class
- Late splash targeting impact positions pushes Auburn’s 2016 recruiting class into top 10
- National signing day surprise as Auburn reels in 5-star DL Derrick Brown
- Auburn’s 2016 receivers bring smile to coach Gus Malzahn’s face
- Defensive back Jayvaughn Myers follows brother’s lead in picking Auburn on national signing day
- Auburn receives biggest commitment of day in 4-star WR Nate Craig-Myers
- Safety Daniel Thomas takes Auburn up on late scholarship offer
- Auburn offers safety Daniel Thomas, offensive lineman Tyler Catalina on signing day
- Auburn misses on 5-star linebacker Ben Davis, Alabama legacy follows in father’s footsteps
- Auburn lands previously undecided OL Prince Sammons
- New Auburn OL Brodarious Hamm has ‘high ceiling’
- Antwuan Jackson’s former coach expects DL to contribute for Auburn as true freshman
- National signing day guide: Additional high-profile recruits would give Auburn plenty to brag about
- Auburn target WR Nate Craig-Myers ready for national spotlight with ESPN announcement
- Dynamic Madison Academy RB Malik Miller ready to build on impressive legacy at Auburn
- Humble verbal commit Nick Coe bringing championship pedigree to Auburn
- Auburn verbal commit Woody Barrett not going to settle for fourth wheel in QB competition
- Long-time Auburn commit Landon Rice on campus with eyes on making immediate impact
- The solution? JUCO transfer John Franklin III ready to push fellow Auburn QBs for starting spot