Auburn coach Gus Malzahn used the phrase ‘wow factor’ to describe John Franklin III’s running ability after Thursday’s practice.
Malzahn struggled coming up with similar praise for the quarterbacks Franklin is competing with this spring.
“Both of those guys (Jeremy Johnson, Sean White) have had times that they've made 'wow' plays,” Malzahn said. “They're veteran guys. The can make plays even when the system breaks down. I've seen it a few times already. I would say they're much improved from where they were last year, but, of course, that's normal for guys who have had experience for a year and they have an offseason and come back.”
The timid compliments speak to Franklin’s significant advantage in Auburn’s three-way quarterback battle. Franklin’s game is in the same mold of former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, a junior college transfer who happened to led the Tigers and Malzahn to the 2014 national title game.
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“He throws the ball well we are just trying to get his timing down on the base offense as far the run game, as far as the pass game, but he’s naturally fast,” Malzahn said of Franklin. “When he takes off running, you know he’s got the wow factor. He can really run.”
Auburn fullback Chandler Cox watches and blocks for Franklin at practice, but still managed to be impressed with the quarterback’s speed when he reviews film.
“He's fast,” Cox said. “I was watching tape in the film room, I was like, 'Wow, he's quick.' That's something that every team needs back there, really. That's something we also need, some speed. He has it.”
Fellow fullback Kamryn Pettway kept his description of Franklin’s speed simple — “he’s a beast.”
Franklin’s credentials as a dual-threat quarterback were established long before he stepped on the Plains. His world-class speed he showed at East Mississippi Community College is what put the quarterback on Malzahn’s radar in the first place.
The key for Franklin will be adjusting to Malzahn’s offensive system, a task he’s done well with through the team’s first five practices.
“I’ve been impressed with his approach,” Malzahn said. “He wants to be coached. His attention to detail, he’s real hard on himself.”
The 6-foot-1, 174-pounder could take an important step in the quarterback battle when the team returns to the practice field from spring break. Malzahn is tentatively planning an unspecified number of full-contact practices when the team returns from the week off.
On the first day of spring practice, Malzahn said those live practices could go a long way in determining Auburn’s starter.
“We did that two weeks before our season in 2013 and it cleared up things in a hurry,” Malzahn said.