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Auburn’s voiceless offense needs quarterback to step up in huddle

Auburn quarterbacks Sean White, far left, Jeremy Johnson, middle, and John Franklin III run drills at spring practice on Tuesday, March 8, 2016.
Auburn quarterbacks Sean White, far left, Jeremy Johnson, middle, and John Franklin III run drills at spring practice on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn center Austin Golson and fullback Chandler Cox made similar jokes Thursday night when asked about the team’s quarterback competition.

“I don’t even know who’s at quarterback when I’m in there,” Golson said. “They switch in and out.”

Cox doubled down on the attempt at comedy when he stepped up to the podium minutes later.

“You know, it doesn't matter who's back there,” Cox said. “Whoever is playing quarterback... it feels good.”

Neither player wants to prop up one of their teammates at the expense of another in the three-way quarterback competition, but the lack of strong leadership at the position is a dynamic Auburn wants to avoid for a second straight season.

Last year, Jeremy Johnson struggled with his confidence and lost his job while redshirt freshman Sean White had to strike the right tone in the locker room given his inexperience.

“As a quarterback, you have to be a leader, but you don’t want to step on the seniors’ toes or anything like that especially because I didn’t start out the season as a starter,” White said in late October. “It’s a little bit different but at the same time I feel as a quarterback I’m gaining my teammates’ respect.”

Both returning players are competing with junior college transfer John Franklin III for the starting job. The three quarterbacks have rotated with the first, second and third team through Auburn’s first five practices of the spring.

Johnson spent Tuesday’s practice running two-minute like drills with the first team, but coach Gus Malzahn said the team has repped the quarterbacks with each group.

Auburn’s identity is tied to Malzahn’s run-play action offense and the quarterback who runs it. Malzahn’s success on the Plains has come with quarterbacks that embrace being the face program. Malzahn has promised patience in judging the competition, but made it clear that he wants whoever emerges as the winner to be one of the leaders in the locker room this fall.

“There is nothing like being out there with a team offensively and defensively just trying to figure out who those guys are that are going to step up,” Malzahn said. “There has been three or four I’m really trying to encourage. Of course if you’re going to be a really good offense you’re quarterback has to be a leader.”

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