AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn backup quarterback John Franklin III didn’t attempt a pass in his extended work last Saturday night against Arkansas State.
But if the Tigers need Franklin to take to the skies in their SEC opener this Saturday against No. 17 Texas A&M, Gus Malzahn says he believes the JUCO transfer can deliver.
“You know, he hadn’t gotten a chance to in a game yet, but [he has] in practice situations,” Malzahn said Thursday night in his weekly appearance on the Tiger Talk radio show. “We feel good. He’s got a very strong arm.”
Malzahn must have forgotten that Franklin has attempted one pass in a game situation this season. Franklin threw a quick screen pass to senior Marcus Davis against Clemson that went for a loss of a few yards.
The No. 2 quarterback’s number of attempts was also misidentified this week by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin. According to James Crepea of AL.com, Sumlin said starting quarterback Sean White and Franklin “both threw the ball extremely well” against Arkansas State.
In reality, though, Franklin has only gone to the air once in his 22 snaps through the first two weeks of the season. The junior had handed the ball off 17 times and kept it for his own runs on 4 occasions for 70 yards — all of which came against Arkansas State.
Franklin’s rushing ability made him a popular candidate to start at quarterback for the Tigers in 2016, but his arm talent came with a lot of question marks.
But earlier this week, Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee praised Franklin for the passing progress he’s made in practice.
“I know he’s confident,” Lashlee said Sunday. “He had a really good week of practice throwing the ball last week. So we’ll just continue that progression this week.”
Prior to the Arkansas State game, Malzahn made it clear he wanted Franklin to prepare as White’s backup over a run-only quarterback in certain packages. Although Franklin didn’t get a chance to show off his arm in Week 2, Malzahn said getting those snaps were important in that effort.
“He got in there,” Malzahn said. “We’re learning about him each week. It’s good that he got reps. It was good for him and good for us to see what he could do.”