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Auburn coach Gus Malzahn plans to go with his gut in deciding team’s starting quarterback

Auburn quarterback Sean White drops back to pass at fall practice on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016.
Auburn quarterback Sean White drops back to pass at fall practice on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn’s coaching staff is charting everything in the three-way quarterback battle between Sean White, Jeremy Johnson and junior college transfer John Franklin III.

The coaches are breaking every practice and scrimmage situation down while monitoring each of the competitor’s leadership qualities.

Coach Gus Malzahn put the process in place back in the spring.

The information will certainly inform Malzahn’s decision when he names a starter for the Auburn’s season-opener on Sept. 3 against Clemson, but the deciding factor in the competition might be far less analytical.

“I think it's just knowing for sure and that gut feeling,” Malzahn said. “When you've coached 26 years, you just know and usually the team knows too.”

Malzahn wouldn’t put a timeline on a decision even as the competition inches forward.

Auburn put on full pads for the first time this fall Sunday, and the team has a live scrimmage scheduled for Tuesday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The three veteran quarterbacks will wear orange non-contact jerseys, but it’s still an important moment in the competition.

“We've put them in a lot of competitive situations the first five days,” Malzahn said. “We'll scrimmage, and you know when you scrimmage and you move the football and you play real football and the decision-making and everything that goes with really stands out.”

Malzahn maintains all three quarterbacks have had equal reps with the first team through the first five days of practice even though Franklin hasn’t taken any them during open viewing periods for the media.

While Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee sounded less than optimistic Saturday night about Franklin’s chances of winning the job, Malzahn was much more even-handed in his assessment.

“All three of them can run our offense, our whole offense,” Malzahn said. “That’s the positive.”

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