AUBURN, Ala. — The wait is almost over.
John Franklin III will make his debut in front of Auburn fans Saturday at the Tigers’ annual A-Day scrimmage inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. He’s not the starter, of course, but he’s certainly battling and drawing high praise from his teammates.
On Tuesday, the 12th day of spring practices, the praise hit another level. Well, another gear might be a more apt description.
Senior defensive tackle Montravius Adams was asked a simple question: is Franklin III the fastest quarterback he has seen?
“Yeah, John Franklin is the fastest,” Adams said. “He’s gotta be. I don’t know. I’ve been watching him practice, and we’ve had two scrimmages. When he gets to the edge … there ain’t nothing else.”
Adams should know. He’s seen the likes of Johnny Manziel and Auburn’s own Nick Marshall during his playing career. Marshall ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds at the NFL Combine in 2015, the fastest by a quarterback in Auburn’s history.
“I think he’s faster than Nick,” Adams said.
Speed has never been an issue for Franklin III. He was once timed running the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds in high school and ran a leg of Florida State’s 4×100 relay team that won the ACC championship. His accuracy, more than anything, has been under scrutiny since his arrival from East Mississippi Community College in January. “I think it’s pretty good, but, you know, there’s always room to improve,” Adams said.
Franklin III spent the 2013 season backing up Jameis Winston at Florida State before transferring to EMCC, where he split time in a two-quarterback system and ran for 451 yards while throwing for 733 yards and completing 58.2 percent of his passes last season.
“He can change the scoreboard quick,” EMCC coach Buddy Stephens told SECCountry.com.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has been impressed with Franklin III’s quick grasp of the playbook, but there’s work to be done in order for him to rise to the level of starter in the SEC. He worked with the second-team offense Tuesday at practice. Senior Jeremy Johnson, it appears, continues to work with the starters.
Franklin III is the only quarterback with a legitimate shot at winning the job to remove his non-contact jersey in Auburn’s two major scrimmages this spring. Ball security — he fumbled at the mesh point on a zone-read play — was an issue in the first scrimmage and he was off the mark rolling out on a long throw down the field in the scrimmage Saturday.
Malzahn has kept a clear-cut opinion on the three-man battle among Johnson, Franklin III and White close to the vest. Not even defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, whose defensive players have been chasing Franklin III in scrimmages, is talking.
“I have been coaching long enough that if you ask me about a quarterback and I’m on defense, you better ask the head coach that question,” he said.
But that’s not stopping Franklin III’s teammates from sharing their opinion on the quick-footed quarterback.
“That guy is really, really fast,” receiver Marcus Davis said. “I’ve seen him make a couple plays. He can really, really stretch the field with his speed.”