AUBURN, Ala. — When Gus Malzahn talked about John Franklin III’s move to wide receiver, it seemed like it would be a slow transition over the course of the spring.
It seems, however, that Franklin is making the move the way he does a lot of other things on the football field: fast.
Auburn held its first scrimmage on Saturday morning and Malzahn acknowledged the junior was one of the players who stood out in the Tigers’ group of talented receivers. According to several players, Franklin managed to make more than a couple of plays. He found the end zone at his new spot, too.
“John is really good,” Sean White said. “He’s working hard to make the transition. He looks good. He caught a touchdown today, I saw. He caught a couple more passes. I think he’s going to be really good.”
Franklin went home to Florida during the Tigers’ 10-day spring break, but it wasn’t all rest and relaxation. Franklin posted a series of hype videos on Twitter, conveying his determination to make a successful position change.
That dedication and his natural athleticism have helped him adjust quickly. He’s already turning heads and earning some respect from Auburn’s top defenders.
“He’s a speedy guy,” cornerback Carlton Davis said. “He has dangerous speed, so you always want to respect that from your receiver, and he has good hands. Just from being a quarterback and now converting to receiver, he has a lot of ability over there, and he has a bright future as a receiver.”
Even as new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey installs his new offense, Malzahn sees the potential for Franklin to become a playmaker. Some of that has to do with his experience in the pocket.
SPRING PRACTICE: Auburn shifts from run-heavy style in first scrimmage
“We’re just trying to get the ball in his hands,” Malzahn said. “He did some good things. Still learning the position, but he’s a veteran guy. The fact that he played quarterback, he understands the splits and the depth and the timing and everything that goes with that. I thought he did some good things. Each practice, you see him getting more and more comfortable. He can flat-out run.”
Auburn’s defensive backs and receivers are getting more chances to go against each other as Lindsey balances the Tigers’ offense with additional passing plays. His teammates understand the former QB is still making the shift, but they also know they have to be on the lookout for Franklin.
“I feel like John’s really coming on at receiver,” defensive back Javaris Davis said. “The more he just gets comfortable, the better it’ll be for him.”