AUBURN, Ala. — It was almost like Auburn’s John Franklin III could hear the SEC Network announcers calling the Tigers’ homecoming game.
As soon the words talent and athleticism were uttered — just 39 seconds after Franklin entered Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe — he slipped through defenders and zipped 80 yards into the end zone untouched for his first career score.
The run was the longest play of the season and the first 80-yard rush for an Auburn player since 2012 when Tre Mason scored from 86 yards against Alabama A&M.
Franklin’s speed and explosiveness have been so glaring in glimpses throughout the season it begs the question: Could the junior college transfer, who had his sights set on Auburn’s starting quarterback job, be useful in another spot on the field?
“Possibly,” offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “That’s stuff we’ll continue to look at. I feel like he’s getting better each week. That’s the challenge, you don’t want to disrupt the rhythm of your offense and get into a quarterback shuffle and we’re not going to do that. But John is an explosive player for us. We’ll just kind of take that week to week and see what we think we can do there.”
Immediately after his team’s win on Saturday, coach Gus Malzahn seemed less thrilled with the idea of experimenting with his backup quarterback. Still, he praised Franklin’s continued improvement and admitted his skill set adds a different dimension to the offense.
Franklin only attempted one pass against ULM but made it count, delivering Nate Craig-Myers a perfect 39-yard pass for the freshman’s first touchdown.
Franklin will continue to be ready at a moment’s notice, regardless of when or where he ends up on the field.
“To me, it don’t matter,” Franklin said. “Whatever helps us win the game, that’s my No. 1 goal. I love winning. Everybody loves winning… At the end of the day, I want a W. It’s a good feeling after a win instead of a loss. That’s the only thing that mattered to me.”
There’s no plan in place and nothing has been practiced to this point. Yet it has become a viable option for everyone involved.
“Nothing has been brought up to me about it,” Franklin said. “But I’m honestly down to do whatever helps out our team, to be honest. Whatever I can do to contribute to this team winning, that’s what I want to do.”