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Post-spring projections: Auburn’s quarterback

Auburn quarterback Sean White, No. 13, greets wide receiver Jason Smith before A-Day on April 9, 2016.
Auburn quarterback Sean White, No. 13, greets wide receiver Jason Smith before A-Day on April 9, 2016. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Editor’s note: Projecting Auburn’s two-deep depth chart based on spring performance.

First team quarterback Sean White Second team quarterback John Franklin III

Auburn probably won’t make a final decision at quarterback until the days leading up until its season-opener against Clemson on Sept. 3.

The Tigers might even wait until the game itself to reveal their starter, but taking into account last year’s performance and everything that happen during spring camp Sean White has a slim lead in the three-way battle against Jeremy Johnson and John Franklin III.

White played poorly in the Birmingham Bowl, but his overall body of work last season was far better than Johnson’s.

Two months away from the practice field thanks to a knee injury derailed the redshirt freshman’s season. When he was healthy, White’s confidence in the pocket was easy to see. White’s effectiveness in the passing game carried over into the spring. On A-Day, he showed his ability to make throws all over the field.

“Sean, obviously, brings his toughness and his grit,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “He's a guy that sees the field and makes good decisions. He's a guy who is going to know where to go with the football. I know his teammates believe in him from that standpoint. He's proven that in games.”

The challenge for White is helping the offense score more points while he’s under center. White needs to score touchdowns whether it’s by improving his red zone efficiency or generating more explosive plays.

While Auburn’s coaching staff might still covet a true dual threat quarterback like Franklin, the junior college transfer he has a ways to go.

Coach Gus Malzahn and Lashlee both praised Franklin’s ability to pick up the playbook, but understanding the system and executing it are two different things. Franklin needs to show more in the passing game and improve his reads and timing in the read-option.

It’s not an insurmountable hurdle — Nick Marshall did it without 15 spring practices — and he will have a chance to prove himself when the team regroups in August.

“Now he’s going into the summer and when he’s working with the guys, he gets to polish that so when we get back in fall camp, you’d like to see a big jump in the growth process and maturity,” Lashlee said. “A guy like Nick didn’t get that.”

The odd man out in this scenario is Jeremy Johnson.

Johnson has said and done all the right things to get back in the mix, but with only one year of eligibility left it’s hard to see the coaching staff going back to the former starter when he didn’t prove better than his competition this spring.