Quarterback John Franklin III’s slight build is noticeable when he’s standing next to his competition on Auburn’s practice field.
The junior college transfer is listed at 6-foot-1 and 174 pounds on the Tigers’ official roster and working next to 6-foot-5 Jeremy Johnson doesn’t do the Florida native any favors.
While Auburn isn’t one of the many collegiate teams that wrote Franklin off due to his lack of size, the coaching staff isn’t ignoring the issue.
Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee touched on the topic Thursday night when he addressed the continued comparisons of Franklin to former Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall.
Lashlee sees the similarities others have pointed out — Franklin and Marshall display similar speed, quickness and arm strength — but underlined a major difference. Marshall weighed in at close to 200 pounds when he won the starting job for Auburn in 2013.
“I think in our league it does (matter),” Lashlee said of the weight difference. “If you look at Nick, in the first year he played around the 198 range or 200 and he didn’t take a lot of big hits because of the style player he was, but he still got nicked up a little bit. He had a little bit of a knee at one time and kind of hurt his shoulder one time. He came back in his senior year and was up to about 210 and that 10-12 pounds made a huge difference. He played the whole year and never missed a game and stayed healthy.”
There can be exceptions of smaller quarterbacks staying on the field, but Auburn isn’t crossing their fingers. Franklin’s strength goal involves him adding weight to his frame through the summer.
“John has done a good job,” Lashlee said. “He’s probably put 10 pounds on already since he’s been here. I think he’ll put on weight in the summer too.”
Franklin’s biggest test to date in the three-way quarterback battle with Johnson and Sean White will come on Saturday when the team scrimmages for the first time this spring. The coaches have even discussed going live (full contact) for the eighth practice of the spring.
“We haven’t decided for sure yet, but it’s very possible,” Lashlee said. “Whether we do or not it will be the most game like situation they’ve been in. A lot of plays at a time and just to see how they respond and react will be big.”
From every indication Franklin’s coaches and teammates have given, it’s an opportunity the quarterback won’t take lightly.
“He’s tried to do everything and take advantage of every opportunity he’s had to learn the playbook, learn more about the system, learn the offense and to just improve,” Lashlee said. “I’ve seen positive development there and there’s no question that’s the kind of initiative and leadership we need.”