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Auburn coach Gus Malzahn didn’t consider abandoning three quarterback game plan

Auburn quarterback John Franklin III warms up before playing Clemson at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016.
Auburn quarterback John Franklin III warms up before playing Clemson at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn came into Saturday night’s game ready to play all three of his quarterbacks.

While Malzahn publically announced Sean White as the starter, John Franklin III and Jeremy Johnson worked on specific packages throughout the week knowing they would be used against Clemson.

The game plan faltered as all three quarterbacks struggled to move the chains in a 19-13 loss many times rotating as often as one play to the next.

When the team went into halftime with three first downs on 37 total yards, the coaches didn’t discuss narrowing the number of players taking snaps under center.

“We went into this thing knowing we were going to play all three,” Malzahn said. “All three had packages and that was our plan, that’s what we went with — at times, it worked well; at times, we struggled.”

Why use all three quarterbacks in the first place? Malzahn didn’t offer a clear explanation.

Malzahn grew frustrated at the line of questioning as reporters asked for clarification about how the game plan developed and what went into his substitution pattern.

"That’s about the tenth time y’all have asked me that, want to ask me again?” Malzahn said near the end of his seven-minute press conference.

The coach was also irritated by the suggestion all three quarterbacks seemed to be on equal footing, again labeling White as Auburn’s clear-cut starter.

“He is our guy,” Malzahn said.

White didn’t seem like it until the second half on Saturday when he was under center for the majority of Auburn’s snaps.

“They all had different packages, different situations and plays they felt comfortable with,” Malzahn said.

Malzahn was less concerned about the quarterbacks than he was over his offense’s inability to run the ball early in the game — the offense combined for one yard on 16 carries — calling it his “biggest disappointment” on Saturday.

“A lot of it was in the first half they did some unique things that they hadn’t done a lot,” Malzahn said of Clemson’s defense. “It took us a little while to get a feel for what they were doing.”

Malzahn even left the door open for going back to a three quarterback rotation into the future including next week against Arkansas State.

“We may continue to do that, we will see how each game goes,” Malzahn said.

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