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Auburn QB John Franklin III taking on wide receiver role

Auburn quarterback John Franklin III arrives at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the 2016 season-opener against Clemson Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016.
Auburn quarterback John Franklin III arrives at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the 2016 season-opener against Clemson Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

John Franklin III might have to hand in his orange jersey.

The former junior college transfer is repping at wide receiver as he tries to win the starting job at quarterback. Franklin opened camp taking reps with the third team offense behind Jarrett Stidham and Woody Barrett.

With a total of six quarterbacks in the mix, Auburn’s coaching staff is developing a backup plan for the athletic senior-to-be considering Franklin faces long odds of winning the starting spot under center.

Coach Gus Malzahn opened the door for a position change earlier in the week, but didn’t outline a specific alternate role for Franklin until after Saturday’s practice.

While Malzahn downplayed the time Franklin spent at receiver — “he was primarily with the quarterbacks” — running back Kerryon Johnson revealed Saturday’s practice wasn’t the first time this week Franklin had a dual role.

Malzahn acknowledges Franklin’s upside as a potential skill player, but remains reluctant to discuss his expectations for Franklin until a permanent decision on his role gets made.

“Yeah I mean he’s got a skill set, obviously everybody knows he’s a great athlete but it’s kind of really hard to tell,” Malzahn said. “He hasn’t got much but we’ll give him an opportunity and his attitude is great. He’s wanting to help the team any way he can. He’s wanting to compete for the starting quarterback job first.”

Johnson gave Franklin’s early work at receiver much higher praise.

“He’s made reads on the fly,” Johnson said. “Like, he’s running a route, reading the corner, reading the coverage, sitting down when he’s supposed to, keep it moving if he’s supposed to. Obviously he’s very fast; he’s outran people, but I think the thing to me is he’s made really good cuts in and out of his break. That’s something that you can teach it, but ultimately it’s on that person to do it, and he’s done a really good job.”

Johnson, who played some receiver in high school, said Franklin is a natural fit at the position.

“I think he’s going to be very good,” Johnson said. “Just for him, like you said, to have the limited time, the things that he’s done the past two or three days, I mean, it just makes you realize how good of an athlete he can be and how good of an athlete he already is. Obviously, you can’t just go to receiver and be an expert. He still has to learn things. He still has to perfect it, but with that flexibility, the options are endless.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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