War Eagle Extra

Auburn accelerates quarterback competition in live scrimmage Saturday afternoon

Clemson wasn’t in town, but it was still game day for Auburn’s football team Saturday.

The team’s eighth practice this month was the first scrimmage of the spring. The Tigers started the morning at Jordan-Hare Stadium then moved indoors when lightening was detected in the area.

Auburn had SEC officials on hand to simulate the conditions of a real game as much as possible.

Coach Gus Malzahn had the first and second team split reps during the 100-play live scrimmage. Fullback Kamryn Pettway was the only player to miss the practice with an injury.

As Malzahn hinted throughout March, the quarterbacks took off their orange non-contact jerseys for Saturday. The coaches wanted to see how the quarterbacks including junior college transfer John Franklin III reacted to live defenses.

The coaching staff has split reps between Franklin, Jeremy Johnson and Sean White this spring, but Franklin received the most reps during the scrimmage.

“We tried to give every quarterback equal reps with the ones and then we got just about equal with the twos,” Malzahn said. “John Franklin got quite a bit of work, but that was by design just because we didn't know as much about him as we do the other guys. It was good to see the quarterbacks. There were some designed quarterback runs, too. We wanted to see how they reacted.”

The highlight of the morning for Franklin was turning a broken play into a 70-plus yard gain, a play running back Jovon Robinson called “exhilarating.”

“It kind of surprised me, probably surprised everybody in the stadium,” Robinson said. “Great speed on John.”

Safety Rudy Ford prevented Franklin from getting into the end zone on the play, but the offense still managed to score multiple times later in the scrimmage. Robinson capped off a lengthy drive with a touchdown from the goal line.

“We did tremendously well,” Robinson said. “I feel like we executed some of the schematics we’ve been going over the whole spring. Everybody was having fun. Everybody was moving fast. I feel like we had a pretty good day.”

Fellow running back Roc Thomas also put points on the board on a long completion out of the backfield from Johnson.

“We gave up one big (passing) play to Roc on a wheel route,” defensive back Stephen Roberts said. “Other than that, I think we fit the runs really good, came up in pass coverage when we needed to and had our man locked on. So I think it was pretty good.”

Malzahn said the offense didn’t throw any interceptions, but put the ball on the ground multiple times.

Malzahn wanted the scrimmage to create some separation in the quarterback battle, but is waiting to break the film down in detail before declaring any winners.

“It’s hard for me to say that right now, but all three of the quarterbacks took pretty good licks and responded well when they came back,” Malzahn said. “It was good for them in the pocket to have those guys rushing and feeling the pressure and have to keep your eyes down the field to make plays. All three got a chance to run the zone-type reads, and all three quarterbacks ran it. It was good.”