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Auburn QB Sean White stays on track for Sugar Bowl start

Auburn quarterback Sean White, No. 13, is on track to start the Sugar Bowl after missing his team's final two regular season games.
Auburn quarterback Sean White, No. 13, is on track to start the Sugar Bowl after missing his team's final two regular season games. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn quarterback Sean White hasn’t needed a timeout in his return to the practice field.

White missed a month of practice trying to play through an injury to his throwing shoulder.

The sophomore returned to the field last week as the team began preparing for the Sugar Bowl with six practices in seven days.

Auburn coaches didn’t ease White back into action.

“We had one day off, and we’ve thrown a lot, and he’s been able to handle the volume,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “I think that’s really good, because there was a period of time he didn’t throw for about a month but just sporadically. Getting his arm back in shape has been really good.”

White’s presence under center has helped the offense get back in sync.

“I know it’s been good for him and his timing and really our overall offense,” Malzahn said. “He threw the ball well again today, so his arm is starting to get in shape. We’re expecting him to be 100 percent or really close to it by the time we play.”

A healthy White could play a key role in the Sugar Bowl, given Oklahoma has one of the worst pass defenses in the country. The Sooners gave up an average of 279 yards through the air during the regular season to rank 119th out of 128 FBS teams.

Without White in the lineup, Auburn’s passing game was almost nonexistent. The team averaged 103.8 yards in four November games. The only three teams to average fewer passing yards during the four-game span were teams with an option-based offense (Army, Air Force and Navy).

Malzahn acknowledged the importance of presenting a more balanced attack in New Orleans.

“I think we’ve been pretty efficient,” Malzahn said. “Going into a game like this, I think you’re going to have to be able to do both to be totally effective. When we’re at our best, we’ve been that way.”

Auburn’s run game would also benefit from stretching the field. Malzahn remains confident in Auburn’s vertical passing game despite a distinct lack of explosive plays in the passing game all year long.

John Franklin III completed the Tigers’ only pass of 50 yards or more this season in the Iron Bowl.

Auburn is near the bottom of the country with only 16 passes of 20 yards or more (t-96th). It’s a stat that likely needs to improve for Auburn to walk out of the Superdome with a win.

“We definitely have the guys that can do that,” Malzahn said. “It would definitely be a good thing.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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