Auburn backup quarterback John Franklin III tantalized the 84,243 fans in attendance Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Franklin threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Nate Craig-Myers, but it was his electric 80-yard run that left the Tigers’ faithful eager for more.
“Going out and playing in front of people those are the moments I live for,” Franklin said. “I love to be in front of people and perform, put on a show for people.”
Once Franklin burst through the line of scrimmage there wasn’t a ULM defender on the field capable of catching up with him.
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“I felt like I was going to have a big run all day today,” Franklin said. “I kind of called it before it happened, but it felt really good when it happened.”
The junior college transfer has offered brief glimpses of his game-changing speed in a relief role this season, but the touchdown run was the kind of play fans have clamored for since he arrived on campus in January.
While coach Gus Malzahn concedes Franklin “bring a different dimension” to Auburn’s offense, the coaching staff isn’t looking for ways to expand the backup quarterback’s number of snaps.
“He’s our number two quarterback, so he’s got to be prepared at any minute,” Malzahn said. “When needed, we’ll definitely have him. He’s getting better and the more that he can get out there and play like he did today, that really helps him.”
On the season, Franklin is 6 of 10 for 73 yards with a touchdown and 16 carries for 203 yards with a touchdown.
Franklin’s current role might limit his opportunities — he didn’t play at all in wins over Arkansas St. and LSU — but the quarterback is willing to wait his turn and help out whenever and whereever he’s needed.
“To me it don’t matter, whatever helps us win the game that’s my number one goal,” Franklin said. “Every one loves winning and if that means I play one snap and we still win then good.”
One change the coaches have made with Franklin is allowing the quarterback to run the full offense when he sees the field instead of specific pre-determined packages.
The increased level of trust has done wonders for his confidence.
“Now that I’ve been getting all the number two reps I’m way more comfortable as far as throwing the ball and running the ball,” Franklin said. “All the game plan I know and I rep it everyday in practice, that alone makes me feel more comfortable.”