War Eagle Extra

Clemson LB Ben Boulware revisits Auburn’s ‘random, sporadic’ use of QBs

Clemson's Ben Boulware during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in Tampa, Fla.
Clemson's Ben Boulware during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. AP Photo

Ben Boulware faced a diverse array of offensive game plans during a decorated four-year career at Clemson.

None of them were quite as unique as the one Auburn used in the season-opener.

Boulware, who made 55 career-appearances (33 starts) at linebacker, revisited the first step on his team’s championship run Tuesday at the Senior Bowl’s media night.

“It was definitely different,” Boulware said of Auburn’s strategy.

Auburn made 22 substitutions at quarterback with Sean White, John Franklin III and Jeremy Johnson rotating from one play to the next. The team also had multiple players (Kerryon Johnson and Chandler Cox) take snaps out of the wildcat formation.

“They were doing it so sporadic and randomly it didn’t allow them to get them in a groove,” Boulware said. “It slowed them down.”

ESPN announcer Brent Musburger called Auburn’s plan of attack in the 19-13 loss was the “most bizarre use of quarterbacks” he’s seen in 40-plus years of broadcasting.

Auburn wanted to catch Clemson’s defense off guard, but the substitutions had the opposite effect according to Boulware.

“I remember Franklin, he was more of a runner, and White was more of a thrower,” Boulware said. “We could just eliminate what they were going to do based on who they were bringing in.”

Boulware said the defense didn’t need to make many adjustments as Auburn went from White to Franklin to Johnson and back again.

“If you had two starting freshman linebackers right there, it might be pretty difficult for them, but me and Kendall (Joseph) are acclimated to the whole experience,” Boulware said. “It wasn’t that bad.”

Auburn’s defense kept it a one-possession game all the way until the final snap when White attempted a Hail Mary as time expired.

Boulware admits the college football season might have turned out differently had Auburn picked a quarterback.

“It was a close game, I think they would have had a better outcome for them if they would’ve kind of had a consistent quarterback in there instead of pulling them back and forth,” Boulware said. “It’s a difficult decision for the coach when he doesn’t really know who to put in there, so he threw them both in the fire and see what happens.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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