Auburn quarterback Sean White didn’t take a single rep at practice this week.
White warmed up Saturday in the pregame with his teammates at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but the coaching staff didn’t agonize over the decision to start backup John Franklin III against Vanderbilt.
The coaches didn’t struggle reversing the decision at halftime either.
Auburn walked into the locker room trailing 13-10 at halftime thanks to a sputtering offense with Franklin at the helm.
Coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee had a brief discussion before informing White he was going to start the third quarter.
“He was banged up, he was hurt and didn’t take one practice snap,” Malzahn said after the game. “We built our game plan around John, first nine and everything that goes with that. Sean threw some and moved around (in warm-ups). He thought he could go and at halftime we made the move.”
While ESPN reported on its broadcast White suffered a shoulder injury against Ole Miss, Malzahn refused to discuss the nature of the injury even correcting a reporter who suggested it was the quarterback’s shoulder.
Malzahn didn’t include White in the injury updates he gave to reporters throughout the week during the his weekly press conferences.
“I didn’t say he had a bad shoulder, but he’s beat up,” Malzahn said.
Once White got it the field it didn’t really matter.
White showed no signs of an injury to his shoulder or otherwise leading Auburn’s offense down the field on his first drive. The Florida native matched the team’s first half passing total of nine yards on his first attempt.
The SEC’s most efficient passer went 5 for 5 on the possession for 54 yards, which ended with him finding Darius Slayton in the end zone to give Auburn a 17-10 lead.
“He’s not one to just sit over on the sidelines,” Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson said. “He stayed ready that’s all you got to even when he wasn’t playing he stayed ready and it showed.”
White finished the game 10 of 13 for 106 yards with the touchdown.
“We were kind of sleepwalking around,” Davis said of the first half. “Once we got punched in the mouth we responded in the second half.”
Auburn players were mostly diplomatic about the offense’s first half performance, but Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason didn’t have to be. Mason gave all the credit to White for the Tigers’ turnaround.
“The X-factor was really Sean White,” Mason said. “His ability to command the tempo and really take care of the football and make critical throws in critical situations is really what he did. It was smart of them to put him back out there.”