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Auburn OC Rhett Lashlee cautions against high expectations for John Franklin III

Auburn quarterback John Franklin III at practice on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016 at the university's athletic complex.
Auburn quarterback John Franklin III at practice on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016 at the university's athletic complex. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee didn’t exactly sound optimistic during a press conference Saturday about John Franklin III’s chances of winning the starting job.

The coaching staff maintained the three-way battle between Sean White, Jeremy Johnson and John Franklin III was fairly even coming out of spring camp.

Lashlee struck a different tone speaking to media for the first time since March.

“You’re talking about a young man who didn’t start playing quarterback until their sophomore year of high school,” Lashlee said. "Most guys that play quarterback in the SEC were playing quarterback in fifth or sixth grade.”

Franklin spent two years on the bench at Florida State with the majority of his reps coming as scout team quarterback. The Florida native transferred to East Mississippi Community College where he split time at the position.

The quarterback’s limited college experience makes him a “true freshman” in Lashlee’s mind.

“Hey I know he’s coming from junior college but he didn’t play either of his two years at Florida State and he split time last year so he doesn’t have a lot of college snaps under his belt,” Lashlee said.

Lashlee seemed to be speaking directly to the fans when discussing what the expectations are for the junior college transfer.

“I just hope everybody is fair with him with expectations because we put so much on hype and expectations just because we have so much time and we need something to talk about,” Lashlee said. “If you are the guy, great still, don’t put those expectations on someone. If you’re not, that doesn’t also mean you failed.”

The positive for Franklin is through the first four days of camp he’s protected the football better than he did during much of the spring.

“He has not had as many turnovers,” Lashlee said. “But then again, last year (spring) I don't really know how many he had in a practice setting. It was when we went live in the scrimmage setting that's why the scrimmage is probably the best test because guys aren't just in there for four plays and out, four plays and out.”

Franklin still has time to prove himself with Lashlee pointing to upcoming padded practices as an important hurdle in the quarterback competition. The team will have its first fully padded practice Sunday and scrimmage early next week.

“It's hard when your trying go cycle all three equally in terms of anybody getting a lot of continual reps to get a great evaluation,” Lashlee said. “The scrimmage will really help us with that. All three have done a nice job making plays but all three have missed some plays. As a whole we're just looking for the consistency of performance.”

Lashlee still hopes to name a quarterback early in camp — “as quick as possible is the best-case scenario for us” — but the coaching staff needs someone to step up.

“How it shakes out, I don’t know,” Lashlee said.