War Eagle Extra

War Eagle Extra Mailbag: Eyes on the quarterback situation, offense going into fall camp

Auburn quarterback John Franklin III throws the ball before the program's spring game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in April.
Auburn quarterback John Franklin III throws the ball before the program's spring game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in April. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

The college football season is inching closer and closer.

Auburn doesn’t open the season until Sept. 3 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but coach Gus Malzahn and his top players will represent the program in less than two weeks in Birmingham for SEC Media Days.

The event marks the beginning of the 2016 campaign with fall camps not far behind.

Lets see what topics Auburn fans are thinking about with the season approaching by jumping into the mailbag.

Q: If JF3 is the QB and the offense gels, will they lead the SEC or the nation again like 2013? (@guitarist1984)

Answer — Probably not.

Auburn’s tenuous quarterback situation isn’t the only question mark on offense. The team doesn’t have the same kind of depth at running back — the 2013 team had three talented upperclassmen backs — and lacks a Sammie Coates-like threat in the passing game.

Coach Gus Malzahn has a history of success behind dual-threat quarterbacks, but the speedy John Franklin III won’t magically fix the entire offense.

Q: If JF3 or Sean White take a firm grasp on the starter role, can you see Jeremy Johnson trying time as tight end, slot, etc? (@scottspivey)

Answer — No way that’s happening.

The quarterback competition is rolling into fall camp with Johnson still part of the conversation. If Franklin or White wins the job midway through camp it would leave Johnson two weeks to try to learn a completely new position.

This isn’t a situation similar to when Auburn moved Jonathan Wallace to wide receiver two years ago. The coaching staff knew Wallace wasn’t going to be part of the program’s plans at quarterback at the end of his junior season. He had a full offseason to transition to his new position.

Wallace was also a more natural fit at wide receiver than Johnson would be at any other position on the field.

Johnson still has value at quarterback even if he doesn’t win the starting job. He would give Auburn an experienced backup and allow for the Tigers to redshirt freshman Woody Barrett.

Q: If the offense under performs again who rightly deserves blame? Lashlee? Gus? Players? (@alan_mcnaron)

A: This could be the question Jay Jacobs is forced to ponder if Auburn has another so-so year.

Malzahn has spent the offseason talking about his renewed hands-on approach. It will be hard for him to lay all the blame on his coaches and players especially if the Tigers can’t figure out the quarterback position.

The players are directly responsible for the team’s performance, but this is almost entirely Malzahn’s roster now going into his fourth season.

Auburn has given Malzahn everything he needs to succeed — heavily investing into the program’s facilities, one of the highest budgets in the country for assistant coaches and long-term job security — and at some point the offense has to start trending upwards again.

Q: With most fans anointing JF3 the starter already in June, do you see Woody as still having a shot at the starting quarterback spot? (@Mattmathys)

A: John Franklin’s growing fan club isn’t surprising considering last year’s results, but Barrett doesn’t just have to beat out one competitor for the starting spot.

Time isn’t on Barrett’s side either.

The quarterback was one of the final student-athletes from Auburn’s 2016 Class to enroll this month. The quarterback missed a month and a half of summer workouts and meetings that the team’s non-early enrollees participated in.

Auburn’s urgency to get back into the SEC title picture means it can’t throw away the season to develop a true freshman quarterback on Saturdays.

Barrett would have to show something special the minute he steps on the practice field in August for him to get into the mix.

Q: Who do you think will be Auburn starting quarterback week 1? (@wareaglestrong)

A: I said Sean White had the edge coming out of spring based on what we were allowed to see during the spring and how coaches and players discussed the competition.

I think everyone in the program would love for John Franklin to be the second coming of Nick Marshall, but that wasn’t the vibe anyone gave off this spring.

Franklin still has the chance to win the job this fall, but for now I’ll stick with White until the Auburn gets back on the field and we see how those three extra months of offseason work impacts the race.

Q: Is this year's front seven one of the best Auburn's ever had? (@Joshknox31)

A: Auburn’s defensive line is an intriguing group of talent, but they have a lot to prove.

Carl Lawson needs to show he can stay healthy after back-to-back injury riddled season and young unproven talent like Marlon Davidson need to be impact players.

If everything breaks right it could be one of the best defensive lines in the SEC.

It probably won’t be good enough to put the front seven in the discussion of best ever considering Auburn’s lack of depth at linebacker this season.

The 1987 Auburn team that won the SEC Championship with a top 10 defense had three All-Americans — Aundray Bruce (LB), Kurt Crain (LB) and Tracy Rocker (DT) — in its front seven.