AUBURN, Ala. — And then there were four in the Auburn football quarterback battle.
On a day when reserve quarterback Tyler Queen announced his decision to transfer, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn revealed senior John Franklin III has moved to a new position for the majority of his practice time.
“John Franklin will work primarily at wide receiver the rest of the spring,” Malzahn said Tuesday. “He played some before we left and did some things on special teams. … Everybody knows he’s a very good athlete and he’s got a great attitude. He wants to help the team any way he can.”
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Franklin split time between quarterback and receiver before Auburn’s 11-day spring break from practices. On Tuesday, though, Franklin did not participate in any quarterback passing drills with the likes of Jarrett Stidham and Sean White during the media’s 15-minute viewing window.
Malzahn wouldn’t completely rule out the chance of Franklin working some at quarterback again this spring. But he made it clear that receiver is Franklin’s new full-time home.
“We’re really focusing primarily the rest of the spring just on his development at wide receiver and special teams,” Malzahn said. “We feel like he can be an impact player on special teams, too.”
Franklin’s new position mates at wide receiver said they like what they see out of the former JUCO transfer. They believe Franklin’s speed could make him an instant impact player out wide.
“His speed is something you can’t coach,” junior receiver Ryan Davis said. “His speed is real deadly. You can take the top off. He’s actually twitchy, so he can make guys miss as well. He just brings an element of extra speed, something that most people in the country don’t have.”
According to sophomore wide receiver Eli Stove, Franklin’s experience as a quarterback in Auburn’s system could be a valuable asset in his transition to receiver.
“He knows where to put the ball as a quarterback, so his depths on routes are good,” Stove said. “He knows the game, so he’ll be a good receiver.”
While some players have a hard time adjusting to a new position, Auburn receivers say they’ve seen the opposite out of Franklin.
Davis said the former quarterback looks like a “natural” at wide receiver, and he’s taking coaching from another Auburn quarterback-turned-receiver — current receivers coach Kodi Burns.
“He looks like somebody who has the God-given ability to be able to do what he does,” Davis said. “He has great hands, great speed and he just keeps working on it every day. He’s getting better, he’s learning from coach Burns and he’s staying after and doing extra stuff.”
As the quarterback battle narrows down to four candidates, Franklin’s opportunities are elsewhere on the Auburn roster.
His new role this fall could include special teams work. Franklin has worked extensively as a punt team gunner during the first six practices and Malzahn said the Tigers might try to put the ball in his hands as a return man.
“He’s got a chance,” Malzahn said. “I think everybody knows when he’s got the ball in his hands that he’s got a unique ability to change the game.”