AUBURN, Ala. — As Auburn continues to prepare for the 2016 season, coach Gus Malzahn is in search of an answer at quarterback.
Though that picture has yet to come into focus, for now, John Franklin III continues to show early promise.
“We’ve been impressed with the way that he’s picked up all the things from the sideline — the pre-snap things,” Malzahn said following Sunday’s practice. “There’s a lot to playing quarterback in our system before the play even starts, before you even look at the defense. I’ve been very impressed with the way he’s done that. He’s a learner, he studies hard. We’re just kind of waiting until the game can become slow.
“(Auburn receivers coach) Kodi Burns the other day was talking about when he first got here in (2008) playing quarterback and how it takes a little bit until you start feeling comfortable. You can see he’s feeling more and more comfortable, but it’s just going to be a matter of time.”
During Saturday’s practice, Franklin III was one of two quarterbacks to go live along with sophomore Tyler Queen, while Sean White and Jeremy Johnson wore non-contact jerseys.
Both participated in what Malzahn dubbed a “half-scrimmage,” with the objective being to evaluate Franklin III more closely.
“He protected the football quite a bit better than he did last Saturday, which is to be expected,” Malzahn said of Franklin III, who reportedly fumbled during his first-ever scrimmage last weekend. “It’s just a matter of him feeling more comfortable. We know quite a bit about the other two guys. The other two guys have had very good practices over the last couple of weeks and we just want to make sure we get a really good evaluation on John and let him play, and see what he can do.”
Malzahn added: “We just felt like it was important, one more time, to see how he can protect the football. Just let him make some plays with his feet and stuff like that, so, it was a good evaluation from that end.”
Prior to arriving to Auburn, Franklin III carved out a name for himself as a dual-threat playmaker at East Mississippi Community College. He threw for 733 yards and added another 451 yards on the ground before earning the distinction as the No. 1 athlete among junior college prospects.
Franklin III figures to compete immediately with White and Johnson, both of whom started for the Tigers at some point last season.
“He’s just coming in hungry,” said receiver Ryan Davis of Franklin. “He’s ready to play.”