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Michael Niziolek: Hard to know what to expect from Auburn’s offense

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn walks the field before his team plays Clemson Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn walks the field before his team plays Clemson Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Sean White was named as Auburn’s starter at quarterback on Aug. 25.

“He's in a good spot to lead this team,” coach Gus Malzahn said in announcing his decision.

Most of White’s leadership came from the bench where he spent prolonged stretches of Auburn’s season-opener against Clemson watching John Franklin III and a host of others run the offense.

Malzahn never completely ruled out using multiple quarterbacks — “we've got three guys that can run our offense, but Sean White's the first one that will be out there” — but did shoot down the idea of using all three early in one game during training camp.

“I doubt that will happen,” Malzahn said.

It did end up happening quite a bit — 22 times in all — in a 19-13 loss to Clemson.

On Tuesday, Malzahn reversed course on his previous reversal.

“Our plan going in was to play all three quarterbacks,” Malzahn said. “We thought it would be successful and obviously it wasn’t. Moving forward, Sean White will be our starting quarterback and John Franklin will get the second-team reps this week in practice.”

It’s hard not to take Malzahn’s pronouncement with a grain of salt considering he was abandoning a three-quarterback system he previously said he wasn’t going to use 48 hours after vigorously defending it.

Would it be a surprise if Sean White gets 70-plus snaps against Arkansas State Saturday? No. Would it shock anyone if White got half that? Not at all.

Auburn wants to bring Franklin along and that means getting him game experience. Malzahn has also shown he’s committed to a wildcat formation with Chandler Cox and Kerryon Johnson taking direct snaps.

It’s probably not even worth it getting bogged down trying to predict the snap count for the quarterbacks as the more pressing question is can any of the quarterbacks even consistently execute the offense?

Franklin is still a complete unknown at this point. He threw one pass for minus-3 yards and didn’t even run the ball out of the read option.

Teams are going to loading up the box when Franklin steps on the field if the coaches aren’t going to allow him to throw anything past the line of scrimmage.

White is less of an enigma, but far from the clear-cut No. 1 guy Auburn says they want him to be.

The team’s red-zone woes with White at quarterback are hard to ignore going into his eighth career start. The sophomore needs to show he can get Auburn into the end zone or the coaching staff will continue to look elsewhere for answers.

Who knows if both struggle maybe freshman Woody Barrett will make a surprise cameo? Can you really rule it out?

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