War Eagle Extra

War Eagle Extra Mailbag: John Franklin III, offensive struggles and the depth chart

Auburn quarterback John Franklin III throws the ball at spring practice on March 1, 2016.
Auburn quarterback John Franklin III throws the ball at spring practice on March 1, 2016. Ledger-Enquirer.com

Two weeks of spring practice are in the books for Auburn. The team will get a nice 11 day break before returning to the field on March 22 for 10 more practices including A-Day.

Time to open the mailbag and answer some reader questions:

Q: How quickly is JF3 getting acquainted with the playbook? Could auburn potentially have a Heisman dark horse in Jovon Robinson? (@anderdw88)

Answer — Gus Malzahn talked about the first part of Dean’s question on Thursday crediting John Franklin III for doing a nice job learning Auburn’s offense. Franklin’s focus during the team’s first five practices has been getting his timing down.

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has yet to meet with the media this spring to offer his perspective on the junior college transfer.

Auburn opened a portion of two practices, but much of the viewing window is limited to watching players go through individual drills and stretching. It’s easy to see Franklin is the kind of highly touted athlete everyone expected, but it’s hard to say how comfortable he is running the offense just yet.

As for Jovon Robinson, I think it would be a stretch to see him a Heisman candidate. The coaching staff seems reluctant to still make him the team’s No. 1 back even with the way he finished the season last year. It’s hard to see Robinson getting the kind of work load Derrick Henry did last year for Alabama.

Q: Will Paul James III be starting or getting a lot of reps at the LB or the DE position? (@joshknox31)

Answer — James missed Auburn’s first three practices of the spring with a minor leg injury. The junior college transfer out of Copiah-Lincoln had 14 sacks as one of the team’s defensive ends.

The coaching staff hasn’t addressed James’ position specifically, but didn’t mention the 6-foot-4, 258-pounder when discussing the team’s lack of depth at linebacker. Auburn wants pass rushers up front and James fits the bill.

Q: Did Raashed Kennion get moved to outside linebacker? (@hairyhipey)

Answer — Former Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp used Kennion at the Buck position, a hybrid end that functions in certain plays as an outside linebacker.

Kennion was at linebacker Tuesday during the open viewing window Tuesday with the first team during 11 on 11 two-minute type drills.

Q: Who do you think has the better chance to come in immediately and make an impact: Nate-Craig or Kyle Davis? (@blake_benson38)

Answer — The easy answer would by Davis. The early enrollee is already on campus going through spring practice and that gives him an advantage over the equally-talented Nate-Craig Myers.

Davis is still recovering from a shoulder injury, so he’s worn an orange no-contact jersey through Auburn’s five practices this spring, but he’s still taking reps and learning the offense.

Both will get the chance to play, but as long as Davis’ shoulder heals up quickly he has the inside track.

Q: Auburn seems to have gotten away from its hurry up offense. How do they change that? (@Reneboyd18)

Answer — Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has talked about this multiple times this spring. He wants to make tempo a priority with the way the team practices. Malzahn has also discussed tweaking the offense — he used substitutions as an example — to speed up the Tigers’ pace of play.

The fall off from two years ago in terms of number of plays isn’t as significant as you would think (only four plays), but Auburn’s general lack of rhythm offensively made their slower pace more pronounced.

Q: When are we going to start going after taller and bigger running backs? (@vinesdonald1)

Answer — I don’t think the size of Auburn’s running backs is much of an issue. Malzahn had success with Cameron Artis-Payne (5-foot-11, 210-pounds) and Tre Mason (5-foot-10, 205-pounds) who both had similar builds to current players Roc Thomas (5-foot-10, 203-pounds) and Kerryon Johnson (6-foot-0, 195-pounds). Jovon Robinson also has plenty of size on him measuring in at 6-foot-0, 230 pounds.

Q: Would this starting lineup work Franklin (QB), Robinson (RB), Davis and Craig-Myers (WR), Roc Thomas and Jason Smith (Slot)? How could you not score? (@kaveouspreston)

Answer — Roc Thomas isn’t moving to the slot with Peyton Barber going into the draft. Cold we see the rest of that group line up together? It’s possible. With so much time until Auburn kicks off against Clemson on Sept. 3, the guessing game related to the lineup will continue for months to come.

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