HOOVER, Ala. — Contrary to popular belief, Auburn football will have a quarterback competition in fall camp. And Gus Malzahn already knows how he wants it to go.
At SEC Media Days on Thursday, Malzahn laid out a basic timeline for the quarterback battle between transfer Jarrett Stidham and returning starter Sean White.
Malzahn doesn’t have a specific date in mind for when he wants to call the quarterback fight, but he doesn’t want to stretch it deep into camp, which starts July 31.
“We’re going into fall camp with a plan,” Malzahn told local reporters before his time on the main stage at the Wynfrey Hotel. “(Offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey has) got a good plan to put Jarrett and Sean into some situations to go out there and compete. We really don’t have a set day, a set time, but the earlier, the better. But we’re going to let both of those guys compete.”
The first couple weeks of practice will be vanilla, according to Malzahn. The quarterbacks will work on installing more of first-year coordinator Lindsey’s offense. Stidham also is new to the team, and White wasn’t able to go full speed in spring camp due to a late-season injury.
But Malzahn sees a lot of value in that “stick to the script” period of camp.
“The first probably five practices, it’s a lot of install,” Malzahn said. “You’re installing some things. At the same time, you’re charting the 7-on-7, you’re charting the team reps. The scrimmages are always big, to see how they react with the defense and moving the ball and all that.”
The fall camp schedule hasn’t been fully released, but Malzahn said the Tigers will have a scrimmage “either the sixth or seventh practice.” In years past, Auburn started with a Saturday scrimmage toward the end of the second week.
After that, the two quarterbacks will be compared in situational practice, which usually means red-zone offense, two-minute drills and third-down work.
Malzahn said the final decision will be a joint effort between himself and Lindsey, the former Auburn offensive analyst who spent the last three years at Southern Miss and Arizona State.
“Chip and I will be on the same page,” Malzahn said. “We’ll have that plan set out. We’ve kind of already strategically got that. As competitions go, sometimes you’ve got to put them in some different situations and all that.”
Malzahn also made special note to include true freshman quarterback Malik Willis in his discussion of the quarterback battle. While he wouldn’t commit to saying the Georgia native will play in 2017, he sees a lot of talent in the A-Day breakout star.
The positive is that we’ve got two guys that we’re positive about, and we’ve got Malik Willis,” Malzahn said. “I really think he’s a young guy who has a chance to be good, too. … I was very impressed with him in the spring. He’s a talented young man, and we’ll see how the season goes.”
According to Tom Green of AL.com, Malzahn named White the starting quarterback over John Franklin III and Jeremy Johnson on Aug. 25 — the team’s 22nd practice of camp. It was the longest quarterback battle of Malzahn’s collegiate coaching career.
Malzahn knows he doesn’t want to go that deep into camp again with the heavily hyped Stidham and the now-healthy White.
“It will be earlier than last year,” Malzahn said, “there’s no doubt,”